Thursday, December 18, 2014

Story from Egypt

A typical suburb in downtown Cairo
(This is post 4 of 5 on my Egypt trip - sorry for the delay!)


I heard a story about an Egyptian Muslim in Cairo who had very recently converted to Christianity. This decision has alienated him from his family, and potentially even puts his life in danger. It’s not illegal to be a Christian here in Cairo, but it is illegal to convert from Islam to another religion. And, while murder is illegal here, ‘honor killings’ by families ‘shamed’ by their relative who has left Islam for another religion often results in relatively minimal punishment for the offenders.

This young man contacted a Christian friend here because he was struggling with depression and even thoughts of suicide because of the ramifications of his decision to follow Christ. For him, giving his life to follow Christ was very much a literal transaction. Fortunately, the Christian friend has been able to encourage and even mentor him such that he has at least one outlet for encouragement.

Such is the life of former Muslims here who make the choice to convert to Christianity. Oftentimes, they have to change their names and move to a different town, sometimes fleeing for their lives. By comparison, when you think of the challenges facing Americans who are pondering making a decision for Christ, it becomes a bit trite to say that they’ve ‘given up their lives’ for their faith. I think it’s probably pretty uncommon in America for that to actually be true.

A lot of big hotels along the Nile
River in Cairo
Sugar cane juice - this guy had a flair for the dramatic as he'd
almost dance while he made the juice and poured it fresh from
the machine into your glass.
Back to our trip, our second week here we went through a couple of security training courses. The first one was for Crisis Management and how to form and carryout a Crisis Management Team that could manage a crisis of any kind – kidnapping, hostage situation, death, or even moral failure in the organization.

The second class was a Field Security Training course intended for those of us who work in places where potential security concerns exist…yes, that pretty much includes the whole of planet Earth, but some of the places where such concerns are most present is where we often work. The training was intense at times, and gave us some real world exercises to have a chance to experience what a crisis event might feel like. Overall, the training itself was an emotionally exhausting 5 days, but I think we were all glad we have it under our belts now.

Me and a couple of John's, waiting for a quick sail through
downtown Cairo on the Nile River. It was one of the few
moments of sitting we had during our hectic schedule.
One of the two leaders of the training is a hostage negotiator who has worked on 104 hostage negotiations for mission or aid worker kidnappings. Out of those 104 incidents, only 3 have resulted in casualties – each time when the local government attempted a rescue on its own and things went wrong.

It was encouraging to hear that over 95% of the hostage situations he was involved with were resolved without the hostage losing their lives. And while virtually all Christian mission groups are against paying ransoms, the policy language suggested was that nothing would be done to encourage future hostage-taking. In the instructors view, giving some concessions during negotiations can be done in such a way that the captors would still be left feeling it wasn’t worth it to capture future hostages.
Downtown Cairo, from the Nile River
We’ve been joined in these courses by some outside guests who are working throughout the Middle East. It’s been very interesting to meet people who are living in the places we see on the nightly news each night. One young couple and their infant son flew here for the training from their post in a region currently being threatened by the Islamic militant group ‘Islamic State’. They’ve been evacuated now, and came for the training on their way home.