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Photo Credit: Coptic Solidarity

03/28/2023 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – On 18 March, a Coptic Christian couple was denied custody of a child they had raised for five years. The Administrative Court of Egypt’s State Council refused to rule in the lawsuit the adoptive parents had filed, claiming it lacked jurisdiction on the subject matter. This decision implied that for the immediate future, the child, known as baby Shenouda, would remain in an orphanage where he has been for over a year, further delaying his reunification with his parents.

The case of baby Shenouda sparked international attention after Egyptian authorities confiscated the child from his adoptive parents last year. Shenouda was abandoned as an infant in 2018 and was discovered by a Coptic priest. With no biological guardian able to care for the child, the priest entrusted the newborn to a family in his congregation. The couple faithfully raised the boy in the Christian faith and named him Shenouda, a popular Coptic name meaning “the son of God.”

After four years of providing for the young boy, Egyptian authorities were notified about the case after a relative of the couple raised concerns over familial inheritance. The family member did not want baby Shenouda to share in the family’s inheritance.

When a DNA test revealed that the Christian couple was not Shenouda’s biological parents, authorities confiscated the baby boy, placed him in an orphanage, renamed him Youssef, and assigned him to the Islamic faith. By default, children with unknown parents are assigned to the Islamic faith, according to the Civil Status Department at the Ministry of Interior.

Egyptian law strictly prohibits adoption under the pretext of Islamic or Shari’a law. However, the laws are forcibly subjected on the Christian minority in Egypt, whose personal status laws must not counter the laws of Shari’a. In the Christian religion, adoption is permitted and should be allowed for the Coptic community in Egypt. Furthermore, the right to foster a child, regardless of religion, was guaranteed by Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity in 2021.

The family has worked tirelessly to regain custody of the child they cared so deeply for. Please keep this couple in your prayers as the lawyers plan to appeal this latest decision to the Supreme Administrative Court.

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