Please pray for the family of a young Christian in Egypt who was brutally murdered for his faith by his colleague. Please note that you might find some of the content below distressing.
A young man in Egypt was tragically murdered by a colleague who later told police, “I hate Christians; I killed him because he is Christian.”
Fadi was an architect who had been working for the company for several years, with Mohammed recently joining as a bulldozer driver. On 15 May, a week after Fadi’s birthday, Mohammed was in the bulldozer when he turned from digging to attack Fadi, who was overseeing work. Fadi tried to escape but Mohammed pursued him until he was killed.
Family forgives killer
Mohammed confessed to the crime and spent four days in prison, before being sent to a mental health hospital for treatment. It’s unclear to what extent, if at all, psychological issues contributed to this attack, but they are often cited by Muslim extremists to explain their attacks against Christians to avoid prosecution – and it works.
Like so many families who’ve been affected by persecution in Egypt, there is no guarantee that Fadi’s family will receive justice from the legal system. Despite this uncertainty and the anguish they are in, they have already decided to forgive Mohammed.
This latest incident is a stark reminder of how the workplace is not safe for many Christians in Egypt – be it from overt attacks like this one, or more subtle forms of discrimination like that experienced by Baher, who features in our latest campaign.
It’s one reason why Egypt in number 35 on the World Watch List – and why your prayers and support for our brothers and sisters in the country, and elsewhere across the Middle East and North Africa, remains vital.
Baher is a young Christian in Egypt who had to work in a dangerous quarry – it’s the only job offered to Christians in his community. After two tragedies, he felt completely hopeless. But God is using Open Doors local partners to change his perspective.
If you’d gone to visit Baher* in his village in Egypt a few years ago, you’d have been greeted with a sad sight. Baher was about 20 and trying to run a small business to support his family, since his parents were too ill to work. “I began to transport gravel, sand and other light building supplies,” he says. “Yet no one wanted to hire me, and I was rejected.” Baher felt shunned, overlooked and despised.
There are two reasons for that rejection. The first? Because he is a Christian.
Christians in Baher’s village face persecution and oppression
“Christians in my village have suffered from persecution for years and years,” he says. “Christians here suffer humiliation and oppression.” It was clear that people in Baher’s community didn’t want to hire him because he has chosen to follow Jesus.
“Christians in my village have suffered from persecution for years and years.”BAHER
The persecution that believers face in his village is sometimes quite subtle, like this refusal to use Christian-owned small businesses. At other times it is much more overt. The homes of Christians have been looted and burned down. A local church leader received death threats when he decided to renovate the church building. The victims of persecution have no legal rights, and they live in a climate of fear. Across Egypt and Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa, this is a common story. Christians can be victims of violent attacks – but they can also be ground down by everyday discrimination.
But that wasn’t the only reason that Baher’s business was scorned: the other was his disability. And even this links back to his faith.
No choice but to work in a dangerous quarry
Baher was only 13 when he started working in the local quarry. Almost all the young Christian men in the village end up working there – since, because of their faith, they aren’t offered any better, safer work.
“We are obliged to work at the quarry since there are no other job alternatives,” says Baher. “Working in the quarries is scary and horrible. I was afraid just at the thought of joining my brother’s work, but the choice was not mine.”
Baher had good reason to be anxious. He hadn’t been working at the quarry for very long when a tragic incident happened.
“We work with old and badly maintained machinery, without safety precautions,” says Baher. “It is common for a worker in the quarry to lose a limb.” One day, Baher’s arm was severed by the quarry’s cutting machine. He passed out from the pain, and woke up later in hospital with the prospect of a very different future.
The family faced even worse a few years later. Baher’s brother was killed at work in the quarry.
“My brother had an electric shock,” remembers Baher. “His employer did not want to let him leave the job. But my brother was not able to stand the pain, and his heartbeat accelerated; he could not take a breath. His lungs were filled with the fine dust.
“We tried to save him and rushed him to the closest medical centre. However, the closest hospital was not equipped to deal with emergencies. The doctor brought the stethoscope to examine him but realised that my brother had died. We were unable to determine the exact cause of his death. My heart was torn apart, and I lost all hope in life.”
Baher felt totally without hope
So many things in Baher’s life came together to make him feel hopeless. The loss of his brother. His disability. The pressure of being sole breadwinner to support his parents, his sisters (who aren’t allowed to work in their strict Islamic culture), and now his brother’s wife and children too. The way that he saw Christians being treated all around him. And his story is one that is repeated by many young Christians throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
“The youth is the church of today and the future.”THOMAS, OPEN DOORS
“Most young people here don’t have a bright future and they know that,” says Thomas*, Open Doors director for the region. “Most of those who remained have no option. They stay because Europe closed the borders, because they have no money to travel, or they have responsibilities to their parents. We need to invest in those who stay. They need to grow in their faith, to survive hopelessness. The youth is the church of today and the future. If the youth leaves, the church will, humanly speaking, diminish to almost zero.”
Baher didn’t just feel hopeless in the wake of all these sad events. He felt angry – with God: “I hated myself and I hated God because I thought He was the reason of all that happened to me,” he says. “I blamed God. ‘Why did you do that to me? I did not do anything wrong! I just wanted to help my family!’”
Meeting an Open Doors partner
Baher was despairing when Fady* visited him. Fady – a local Open Doors partner – remembers that day well.
“Baher looked miserable and anxious,” Fady says. “His heart was full of resentment and bitterness towards God. When I entered the room, Baher didn’t want to talk with me at first, and it was really challenging to start building a conversation with him.
“Suddenly, Baher exploded with anger, bombarding us with questions: ‘Does God exist? Where is God in my life? If God is in control, as you say, and works everything for the good, why has He forsaken me?’”
“That’s really horrible,” Fady replied. “I understand your feelings, but please, don’t lose hope. God is not far away from our troubles. Believe me, God never leaves us because He is our Heavenly Father and the Father never forsakes His children.”
Fady also shared the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, praying that God would use the verse to speak to Baher’s troubled heart: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12).
How the microloan project changed Baher’s life
This visit was just the first step in the relationship that Fady and his team have with Baher. They are keen to show Baher that he is part of a wider community of Christians who will stand with and support vulnerable believers like him.
“I have seen God’s practical love through your love, care and presence.”BAHER
“We are showing our heavenly Father’s love to him and his family in a practical way,” shares Fady. “First, we helped him to set up a microproject to start sheep breeding, so that he can have a regular source of income for his family.”
Having researched the area, they knew this small business would have a better chance of success – and a microloan from Open Doors partners made it a possibility. Last year, these partners provided 969 microloans in Egypt, each one often supporting entire families of Christians. Baher’s sheep business is pictured (right).
“I am blessed with the microproject the ministry provided me,” says Baher. “It is now working very well, and I can provide for my parents and for my brother’s wife and children. If you had not helped me with it, I would not have had any income.”
Alongside this, Fady helped Baher enrol in a local discipleship group where he is deepening his faith and learning more about God, particularly His presence amidst troubles. Last year, almost 270,000 Christians in Egypt were able to enrol on discipleship programmes run by Open Doors partners, thanks to the gifts and prayers of Open Doors supporters.
“My whole family shifted our focus from blaming God to praising Him and now we go to church on a regular basis,” says Baher. “I have seen God’s practical love through your love, care and presence.”
“He is not far away; He is very near to me”
Most of all, Baher knows that God has not abandoned him: “I believe in God’s sovereignty, and that He is not far away in the sky, but He is very near to me. When I was searching for my own solutions, God was preparing and making a way to reach out to me through your ministry team.”
“I feel serene when I engage with God’s Word.”BAHER
Baher can’t read, but now he has access to God’s Word through an audio Bible. “It allows me to listen to the Word of God daily and experience an intimate relationship with Him,” says Baher. “I feel serene when I engage with God’s Word because Jesus is everything to me.”
It’s clear that Baher’s life is being transformed. He is able to raise money for his family through a much safer job, he knows he is not alone, and he knows God’s closeness. “If you had not backed me, I would not have changed,” he says. “You lifted my morale and helped me to restore my relationship with God.
Ongoing support is vital for helping Baher feel connected with his wider Christian family, and there are many, many other young believers in the Middle East and North Africa, like Baher, who feel ignored and rejected and need support.
Without your prayers and support, many could be left feeling hopeless and alone. You can help them have a completely different story. Today, you can make hope last.
*Names changed for security reasons
Raina in Egypt became a Christian after her son was miraculously healed and saw a vision of Jesus – today, she is learning to see her true value as God’s beloved daughter.
“If I would show you my face, this could cost me my life.” Rania* grew up in a devoutly Muslim community near Cairo, Egypt. Becoming a Christian has endangered her – but she knows it is the best decision she ever made.
Growing up, Rania was taught to wear strict Islamic clothing as a teenage girl and, later, as a woman. “When I went out, I would be fully veiled, always afraid that even my fully covered body would be seen as seductive, and I would bring shame on my family,” she says. “From an early age I was told that my purpose was to get married, have children and satisfy my husband. I didn’t feel like I had much value.”
Rania did get married, and had a son. She did not feel close to her husband Sameh*, and she was horrified when he chose to follow Jesus. Everything she’d heard about Christians was bad. “My husband came to Christ first; I did not like it at all,” she says. “I had always learned that Christians were dirty and that converting to Christianity was a sin.”
Things changed when their son became very sick. He was so ill that Rania and Sameh were worried that he would die. “My husband prayed for him – I didn’t think much of it,” Rania remembers. Like any anxious parent, they were desperate for their child to recover. But even Rania’s husband didn’t anticipate exactly what God would do in response to his prayer.
“As my husband was praying, my son suddenly stopped shivering and his temperature went back to normal!” This miraculous healing would have been wonderful enough – but God also sent the young boy a vision that changed the life of his family. “My son opened his eyes and told us: ‘I saw Christ on the cross looking at me, and He called me, saying: “Child arise”’,” Raina remembers. “I couldn’t stand on my legs anymore. I fell down, kneeling next to my husband crying and thanking this God I never knew. At that very point I gave my life to Jesus.”
Raina wholeheartedly knew that she wanted to put her faith and trust in Jesus – but she also knew that openly being a Christian in her community would be extremely dangerous for her and her family. “We were living in a strictly Muslim village,” she says. “From the outside nothing had changed: I couldn’t stop wearing my veil all of a sudden. Converting to Christianity is seen as a shame for the family, something that fanatics say should be forbidden. If we wanted to live, we had to become secret believers.”
“Converting to Christianity is seen as a shame for the family, something that fanatics say should be forbidden.”RAINA
Egypt is number 35 on the Open Doors World Watch List, and converts from Islam face enormous pressure from their families to ‘re-convert’. The state also makes it impossible for new believers to get any official recognition of their conversion. But Raina and Sameh are persevering, learning more and more about Jesus and the Bible. It has helped change Raina’s understanding of herself as a woman, which had been damaged by the extreme views of her community’s version of Islam.
“If you’re a secret believer in a family, that family is your first church. Sameh and I do Bible study together, share about Jesus with our children, and pray together. It’s a journey. We were never very close [before my conversion]; now we are learning what it means to support each other in marriage.
“The things I learned about myself ever since I was young – harmful things – are engraved deep into my soul: ‘You have no value, you have to hide yourself’. It takes time to fully let go of those convictions.”
Women’s seminars from Open Doors partners
Part of this new understanding of her identity in Christ comes from seminars by Open Doors local partners that are run for women, particularly for women from a Muslim background, many of whom have faced discrimination for their gender because of the culture they live in.
“The women’s seminars of Open Doors local partners here, that I was invited to, were so helpful for me,” says Raina. “The sisters helped me to overcome the traumas of my past and God Himself told me that I am of value, that I am in fact His beloved daughter!”
“God Himself told me that I am of value, that I am in fact His beloved daughter!”RAINA
While these seminars have been very helpful in Raina’s faith, life as a secret believer is really hard. “The hardest part of the journey was watching my children suffer,” says Raina. “They had to leave behind their family, their friends and their school, and get adjusted to a different life with less money. They are raised as Christians inside the house, but outside the house they have to live as Muslims, like us.
“It broke my heart when my oldest son said to me one day: ‘Why did God save me from death? I’d rather have died than have this life.’ He became depressed and didn’t want to go to school anymore, he was too afraid to make a mistake and reveal he was a Christian. Being new believers ourselves, Sameh and I found it hard to deal with these questions.”
Thankfully, he has been able to go on a camp for other young Christians from a Muslim background like him. “He made a lot of friends there,” shares Raina. “He doesn’t feel so alone anymore and is happy again. He even tells his little brother Bible stories now.”
Looking to the future
Despite the difficulties she has faced, and is facing, Raina is passionate about supporting other believers who’ve converted from Islam. She is now able to do that, thanks to support and training from Open Doors local partners: “Recently, a new chapter in our story started: we now have a discipleship group in our home, a house church,” says Raina. “I am a clever lady, I just never had the chance to develop myself. The ministry [Open Doors partners] is offering us leadership training, and I am excited to start it.
“Please pray for us if you read this. Changing everything in life was not an easy step, but God was supporting us all the time and we were able to move on. We decided as a family that we will not give up. God is good.”
Please join Raina in these prayers, and ask that other women who are persecuted for their faith and vulnerable because of their gender would be seen, heard and empowered to reach their God-given potential.
*Names changed for security reasons
Seven years after being brutally attacked before a mob of 300 people, an elderly Christian woman’s search for justice goes on after three men were acquitted on trial.
Three Egyptian men who were on trial for the horrifying attack on an elderly Christian woman in 2016 have been acquitted on appeal.
Suad Thabet was 70 years old when a mob of approximately 300 men attacked the Christian community in Al-Karm, Minya Governorate, in response to a rumour that her son had an affair with a divorced Muslim woman. Suad was dragged into the street where she was beaten and stripped naked. Her husband, 79-year-old Abdu Ayad, was also beaten.
In June 2021, a court handed down prison sentences to ten men for taking part in the sectarian violence, in which properties of Christians were destroyed. Six months later, three other men were acquitted of attacking Suad.
“Where is the justice?”
“I waited so long for justice,” said Suad at the time. “I was beaten and stripped completely naked. They torched my home and I was displaced from the village. My sons had to leave Egypt as they couldn’t stay after what happened. I stayed waiting for justice for all those long years. Where is the justice? I feel shocked.”
The case went to appeal, but on 9 January 2023 the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest court, dismissed it. The court only looks at the legal aspects of the case and not the facts. Its verdict is final.
Suad’s story is symptomatic of the lack of serious law enforcement in Egypt and the unwillingness of local authorities to protect Christians. This adds to their vulnerability and is a factor in the country being number 35 on the World Watch List.
When Layla was nine, her parents became Christians – but had to flee their home for fear of persecution. Now in a new school, Layla found herself an outcast for a God she did not know or understand. But thanks to your prayers and support, Open Doors partners came alongside Layla and helped to lift her out of depression and give her new hope.
For many children, Christmas is a time of joy and excitement. But for Layla* (14) from Egypt, Christmas meant rejection and loneliness – until you stepped in with your gifts and prayers during the Open Doors children at Christmas campaign.
When Layla was nine, her parents became Christians. “My parents gradually told me about Christianity,” she says. “Our family are strict Muslims; it was dangerous for them to tell me all at once.” Despite her parents’ caution, Layla’s extended family soon found out about their conversion when they noticed that Layla’s father had stopped attending the mosque. Her parents were forced to flee with her in the middle of the night and settled in a new town far away. Layla didn’t really understand what was going on. Jesus was still a mystery to her, but she knew that she belonged to a family that was ‘different’.
Intimidated by teachers at school
“One of the teachers once insulted me in front of my classmates”LAYLA
It was Ramadan when Layla started at her new school, but her parents’ faith made her an outsider. “My peers gathered to celebrate breaking their fast and watch TV together, enjoying each other’s company,” she remembers. “However, they excluded me from their gatherings because they knew my family didn’t participate in Ramadan. Instead, we celebrated Christmas at home, but I could not share this with my peers.”
Even though Layla didn’t fully understand what being a Christian meant, she was no longer allowed to follow the rules and habits of strict Muslims. This led to further struggles at school, including bullying. “My friends at school ridiculed me when they saw me once drinking a cup of water during the break in the Ramadan period. I was hurt by their harsh looks and verbal harassment,” she says. “One of the teachers once insulted me in front of my classmates and intimidated me to get veiled. Teachers said that if I didn’t wear it, I would go to hell.”
Layla’s parents tried to explain their faith to her, but they couldn’t find the right words to help her understand. Layla started wrestling with lots of questions, but there was no one her age to share her struggles with: “Is the Christian faith the truth? Or should I go back to Islam so that I may not end up in hell? I didn’t know who I was. What was my identity? What beliefs should I accept and live for? I only felt left out and rejected.” She became severely depressed, and even attempted suicide.
“Jesus stepped into my hopelessness”
But thanks to you, Layla was not alone for long. When Open Doors local partners heard about her desperate situation, they immediately stepped in to help. Sally*, an Open Doors fieldworker, came alongside her to listen to her worries and encourage her. “She became the Christian friend I had been looking for,” Layla says. “She gave me new hope.”
“After the camp I just wanted to share about God’s love with other people and to help them to change”LAYLA
Sally also invited her to a secret children’s camp, and a discipleship group, where she could connect with other Christian children her age. “My eyes were opened to the truth,” Layla says. “I believed in Jesus’ words when He said the truth sets us free. After the camp I just wanted to share about God’s love with other people and to help them to change by God’s power.”
Meanwhile, Layla’s parents were invited to join discipleship training which, among other things, helped the to explain their faith in a way that Layla could understand.
She has also learned to play the piano and accompanies the worship in the small house church that she attends with her parents. Although Layla still cannot share much about Jesus at her school, she is still in touch with Sally and others who continue to encourage her in her faith.
Thanks to you, Layla has a new Christian community to grow in her faith with – not just for Christmas, but the whole year round. She says, “Jesus stepped into my life in my hopelessness and made all the difference.”
*Names changed for security reasons
Your prayers are needed following an attack against another Christian in Egypt. On 5 July, Abdel-Masih Sadeq Khalil was tragically killed by a Muslim extremist in front of his son and two nephews.
A 58-year-old Christian man from Egypt was brutally murdered in front of his son and two nephews, with the attacker heard saying, “I killed this Christian kaffir to get to paradise.”
Abdel-Masih Sadeq Khalil – a father of eight – was on the way to deliver food to those working on the family’s citrus farm in the village of Ezbet Al Thawabit in Minya Governate on Tuesday 5 July when the horrific incident took place. He had his four-year-old son and two nephews (aged 6 and 8) with him.
Attacker waited to ambush victim
According to eyewitnesses, Abdel-Masih was approaching the farm gate when a local villager – who had been waiting for him under a nearby tree – attacked him through the car window. Abdel-Masih’s arm was injured, which caused him to lose control of the car and crash into the farm gate.
The attacker then opened the car door, pulled Abdel-Masih from the car and stabbed him in the chest while shouting “Allah Akbar, oh Christian, oh kaffir” before running away. One eyewitness heard him say, “I killed this Christian kaffir to get to paradise.” (‘kaffir’ is often used by Muslims to refer to people who are not Muslims, sometimes as an insult.)
“My father was very peaceful and he was loved by many people”MINA, ABDEL-MASIH’S SON
Mina, Abdel-Masih’s eldest son, was on the farm when news of the attack reached him. “While we were working inside the farm, we were surprised that the eight-year-old son of my cousin was running towards us screaming and trembling with fear,” he shares.
“We found my father laying on the ground and drenched in his blood in front of the gate of the farm,” Mina continues. “My four-year-old brother and my cousin’s six-year-old son were close to him, screaming and shivering with fear and panic. Two women from the village were beside my father trying to help him. We rushed to the hospital but my father passed away once we arrived.”
‘Targeted and killed for his faith’
“There was no relationship between this man and my father,” Mina says. “He killed him without any reason, just because my father is a Christian. My father was targeted and killed for his faith. My father was very peaceful and he was loved by many people. He had no enemies.
“We want my father’s right. I appeal to the president, the Interior Minister, the Public Prosecutor and the just judiciary to speed up the completion of investigations, and that the criminal receives just punishment under the rule of law.”
The perpetrator was arrested by police the same day, but his family told the police and prosecution that he is mentally ill. This is often cited in attacks against Christians, as a way to avoid punishment. It means believers in Egypt – which is number 20 on the World Watch List – struggle to get justice for crimes committed against them, which adds to their vulnerability.
In this particular case, the prosecution has remanded the attacker in custody, pending further investigation.
Earlier this year, Rani Rafaat, a Christian man, was murdered in his shop in Egypt. The murderer later admitted in a video on YouTube that he killed him because Rani was friends with a Muslim woman on Facebook. Please pray for Rani’s family, and that the attacker will be brought to justice.
Rani Rafaat (28, pictured above) was shot to death in his shop by gunmen, one of whom later admitted it was because Rani ‘was friends with Muslim women’.
On the day of his death, Rani – a Christian and an agricultural teacher and agricultural shop owner from El Dabaa, a city on the north coast of Egypt – had gone to the nearby Mar Mina monastery with both of his parents.
“The 27 April started as a lovely day,” shares Rani’s father on the phone. “On the way back, he got a call from a customer; he needed something from his shop. We went with Rani to his shop, but he told us to go home already, he would come home later. But he never came home again. Just after we arrived home, we received the call that he had been murdered.”
Rani’s aunt, who lives above Rani’s store, saw it all happen: “I saw three masked men with automatic weapons; they wore black clothes… They shot at Rani about 22 times. When they fled in their car, I heard them fire shots in the air in celebration, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [‘God is the greatest’].”
“Just after we arrived home, we received the call that he had been murdered”RANI’S FATHER
Rani’s father remembers the moment he walked back into his son’s shop with dread: “I found him dead, lying on the ground and drenched in his blood. It was a big shock for me when I saw him dead.”
Rani’s first attacker goes free
This wasn’t the first time Rani had been attacked. In December 2021, he was shot in the leg by a fellow citizen of El Dabaa, but he managed to escape before getting killed.
“The perpetrator was found quickly and arrested,” says Rani’s father. “He said he had shot my son because he had heard rumours of him being friends with Muslim women on Facebook and talking with them on Messenger.”
In Islam, a Muslim woman cannot marry a Christian man, and therefore even a friendship between them is frowned upon.
Rani and his family did not receive justice for this attack. The family of the perpetrator pressured them to drop the charges in a so-called reconciliation session, a traditional custom to settle conflicts. “They came to my house and told me that their family member suffered from a mental illness,” Rani’s father remembers. “They also said that they did not believe the rumours about my son befriending Muslim women. For our safety, we decided to drop the charges against the perpetrator.”
Murderer admits to crime on YouTube
Even though Rani deleted his Facebook, switched his mobile phone number, and took a job in another city, the rumours were persistent enough for a group of men to murder him less than six months later.
On 14 May, a man admitted the murder in a YouTube video: “I killed the Christian young man in Dabaa and I swear God that I killed him. And I’m happy that I killed him. I killed him because I heard that he was friends with Muslim women… I never know him at all.”
Rani is buried in the family grave in Alexandria; he leaves behind his parents and two younger siblings. So far, no one has been arrested for his murder.
Please hold Rani’s family in your prayers as they grieve for him.