Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

ICC NOTE: Majed El Shafie’s story is not unlike other Christians in Egypt. Persecution manifests in many ways including laws against the construction of new churches, harassment of those converting to Christianity, as well as the marginalization of Christians in the Egyptian political process.

Torture spurs man to fight for religious freedom

Finger Lakes Times
NEWARK — Seven hellish days of torture in an Egyptian prison did nothing to diminish Muslim-turned-Christian Majed El Shafie’s faith in God, but it did ignite a passion for helping other persecuted Christians worldwide.

El Shafie, founder of Toronto-based One Free World Ministries, will share his harrowing story and testimony at 7 p.m. Sunday at Em-manuel United Methodist Church in Newark . Through his ministry, he has reached out to lawmakers in the United States , Canada and Israel to relieve the plight of persecuted Christians in Asia and the Middle East . El Shafie urges love and forgiveness in the face of terrible hardship.

“I decided to forgive those who tortured me, but with forgiveness comes action,” he said. “We have to help the people that are suffering for their beliefs.”

Born into a prominent Muslim family in Cairo , El Shafie seemed destined to go into law. His father and brother are successful attorneys and an uncle serves as a judge on a high court.

“When you’re born into a family like this, you have lots of books on law, justice and freedom,” he said.

While studying law in Alexandria , El Shafie was shocked to see the harsh treatment of Christians. Building churches is illegal in Egypt , he said, and Christians are treated worse than second-class citizens.

Struck by this intolerance, El Shafie began studying the Bible. In 1998, when he was about 20, he converted to Christianity and organized an underground congregation that attracted 24,000 worshippers within two years.

It was literally an underground church, worshipping in caves near the outskirts of the city.

El Shafie ran afoul of the Egyptian government when he appealed for equal rights for Christians. He also took issue with the harsh teachings of the Koran, which the government used to justify persecuting Christians.

“It’s not that they’re bad because they’re Muslims,” he said. “Our problem was with their teaching of Islam.”

He was arrested and confined in Abu Jaabel prison in Cairo , The government charged him with inciting a revolution, trying to change Egypt ’s religion to Christianity and “worshipping and loving Jesus Christ.”

While they had him in custody, police tried to get him to name names. El Shafie refused. Authorities took El Shafie to an underground portion of the prison and tortured him for seven days straight, he said, noting they shaved his head and held him under scalding hot then freezing cold water. He was hung upside down and beaten with belts, burned by cigarettes and had his toenails torn out.

In a final insult, he said prison guards tied him to a cross and left him there for two days.

“The only thing I could remember was the taste and smell of my own blood,” he said.

El Shafie remembers losing consciousness and waking up in a hospital bed. A guard tipped him off that he was about to be executed, so he escaped out of a back window, he said.

When the government learned of El Shafie’s escape, it issued a $100,000 fatwa on his head, he said.

He said he rode across the Red Sea on a jet ski, crossed the Sinai Desert and turned himself in to the Israeli government. He remained in Israeli custody for 16 months while the United Nations and Amnesty International investigated his story. He was finally granted political-refugee status and emigrated to Toronto .

El Shafie emerged from his experience a hardened advocate for persecuted Christians.

Becoming a Christian cost El Shafie his home and his family, who have since disowned him, but he gained a new purpose in life.

Since founding the 1,000-member strong One Free World Ministries, El Shafie has been lobbying for condemnation for regimes that persecute Christians. He has also raised money to send farming equipment to Christian communities in the Middle East and Asia .

Every year, 165,000 Christians are killed for their beliefs, he said, in places like North Korea , China and Saudi Arabia . It’s the duty of all people to recognize this harsh treatment and to do something to stop this suffering, he said.

To all governments that persecute Christians, El Shafie offers this message:

“The persecuted Christians are dying, but they’re still smiling. They’re in a deep mine, but they’re holding the light of the Lord. You can kill the dreamer, but you can’t kill the dream.”