As Egypt prepares to vote on a new constitution today, Egyptian Christian immigrants living in the US are worried for their families at home. There is grave concern that Egypt may soon become an Islamic state.
By Julia Spitz
12/12/2012 Egypt (Milford Daily News) - As reports from Cairo reach America, it's hard to ignore what Lila has to say.
"It's not safe at all,'' said Lila, whose name has been changed to protect the brother and sister she hopes to get out of Egypt as soon as she possibly can.
On Tuesday, an Associated Press story about recent clashes included accounts of "crowds of bearded Islamists proclaiming allegiance to Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi and chanting 'God is great' as they descended on tents set up by anti-Morsi protesters ... They set up a detention facility, interrogating and beating captured protesters.''
"If your last name is Christian,'' rather than a traditional Muslim surname, "they can beat you up but good,'' said Lila,a Coptic Christian.
Lila grew up about 200 miles away from Tahrir Square, in Assuit, an area with Egypt's highest concentration of Coptics, who represent about 10 percent of the country's population.
Despite the difficulty, "reuniting families is the best part of the work,'' said McGovern. His staff often takes pictures to send to those who have helped with the process "so that they can enjoy the smiles and happy endings along with us.''
A happy ending is certainly what Lila's family prays for, but they fear what will happen if the proposed constitution is approved in Saturday's vote.
"No one knows what the outcome is going to be for the people of Egypt,'' said Lila's father.
What they do know is what they hear from those in the Coptic community now.
"Almost every day, we call them to see if they are safe,'' Lila said of her younger siblings. They say there are reports of Christian children disappearing, then a few weeks later, "the parents get a call,'' said Lila. The caller says, "he's not your business anymore'' because the child has converted to Islam, she said.
"If you go out of the house, you're looking around,'' said her father. "Are they going to kill you?''
Meanwhile, "Egypt's powerful military warned earlier this week of disastrous consequences if the dispute over the draft constitution is not resolved,'' the Associated Press reported.
And "Egypt's judges Tuesday said that most of them would not oversee a nationwide referendum on a contentious draft constitution, as tens of thousands of opponents and supporters of the country's Islamist president staged rival rallies in Cairo, four days ahead of the vote.''