BEATEN BUT UNBOWED [Excerpts]
A recent visitor to Jerusalem, Majed El Shafie, bore witness to [anti-Semitism and the persecution of Christians] at a reception and press conference held at the Van Leer Institute on December 14. Shafie and his colleagues formally introduced his Toronto-based international human rights organization, “One Free World International.”
Shafie knows a great deal about Christian persecution: He converted from Islam to Christianity in his Egyptian homeland when he was 18. “During my years in law school in Alexandria,” Shafie explains, “the persecution of Christians was going on all around me and it made me wonder why it was happening. For the first time in my life I started to think about it. I started asking questions of my best friend Tamer, who was a Christian, and I started reading the Bible. I started making comparisons between the Bible and the Koran….Of course, converting from Islam to Christianity — or to any other faith — is dangerous business in Muslim lands. Under Shari’a law such conversions are understood to be a capital offense – enforced by the death penalty in some states, and bringing about various abuses and vigilante tactics in others. Nonetheless, Shafie was outspoken about his new faith.
“After I converted I wrote a book about the difference between Islam and Christianity which soon caused me to be arrested and imprisoned. There were three charges. The first charge was that I was trying to make a revolution against the Egyptian government. The second charge was that, because I was seeking equal rights for Christians, I was accused of trying to change the state religion to Christianity. The third charge was that I worshiped Jesus. So in fact I looked at the judge and I said, ‘Guilty as charged.'”
Shafie was imprisoned and tortured. Even today scars on his back testify to the violence he endured. After a lengthy hospitalization, he was placed under house arrest in Alexandria, and it was from there that he escaped and made his way to Israel.
Finally in 2002 Majed got approval to enter Canada….Shafie’s December 2009 trip to Israel was, in part, a gesture of thanks to a country that gave him a new beginning. He also took the opportunity to affirm his personal support of Israel as a free nation and to take a stand, in solidarity with Israel, against anti-Semitism.
Shafie appeared at his press conference with two Canadian members of Parliament, Scott Reid and Mario Silva, both of whom are actively engaged with issues related to human rights and anti-Semitism. Dr. Frank Dimant, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith Canada, and Timothy King, a One Free World board member, also shared the podium with them. The speakers agreed that “anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism.”
Shafie went on to say that the report on the IDF’s Cast Lead operation in Gaza by the head of the UN fact-finding mission, Justice Richard Goldstone, serves as a disturbing example of anti-Zionist rhetoric. Shafie underscored specific facts about Hamas’s tactics and the IDF’s response that were not mentioned in the Goldstone report:
“We needed to know from his report that Hamas was using civilians as human shields. We needed to know from his report that for I don’t know how many years Hamas has been shooting thousands of rockets into Israel. We need to know from his report that before the Israelis bombed any target in Gaza, they sent thousands of fliers into the area and told the people to get out – ‘We’re going to bomb here in two hours.’ Goldstone’s report is a disgrace!”
After speaking about anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, Shafie then began to discuss the plight of persecuted Christians. One Free World reports that in 2008, 165,000 Christians were killed worldwide because of their faith, claiming, “Every three minutes a Christian is being tortured in the Muslim world… between 200 million and 300 million Christians are persecuted in the world, of which 80 percent are in Muslim countries and the rest in communist and other countries.”
(Gilbert, “Beaten But Unbowed,” The Jerusalem Post, January 1 – 7, 2010, p.18-19).