Childhood Council to reconcile ‘missing’ Minya girls with families

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By Essam Fadl

CAIRO: Two girls who had left their Upper Egypt homes and said they converted to Islam are to take part in “reconciliation sessions” with their families, a lawyer said.

The two Christian girls from the southern governorate of Minya went willingly to the Qasr El-Nil Prosecution office in Cairo last Friday after their disappearance stoked sectarian tension. They said they were not kidnapped but left home and converted to Islam.

A Youtube video circulated showing the girls declaring their conversion to Islam and denying their kidnapping.

The prosecutor ordered them to stay in a shelter managed by the National Council of Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM).

Head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization and Coptic lawyer Naguib Gobrael said that NCCM will organize “reconciliation sessions between the two girls and their families, to overcome the psychological problems resulting from their 13-day disappearance.”

Gobrael told Daily News Egypt that he filed a complaint to the Prosecutor General against the decision to put the girls in a shelter.

The prosecution office also decided that Gobrael would coordinate between the families of the two girls and NCCM, adding that “the reconciliation sessions will be attended by the girls, their parents and a member of NCCM. The sessions will aim to remove tension and psychological barriers resulting from the crisis before they are back home, since they are still underage and their conversion to Islam is illegal.”

News reports said that the Grand Shiekh of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb issued a fatwa disallowing minors from converting to Islam, and their conversion is not recognized.

However, Al-Azhar denied in a statement Monday that El-Tayeb had issued such a fatwa. El-Tayeb only explained the procedure regulating the registration of conversion to two visiting priests, the statement said.

According to regulations, those wishing to convert have to be over 18 and genuinely want to be Muslims and not for money, personal gain, family pressure or marriage. If El-Tayeb is to issue a fatwa, he’d announce it to the public through all media channels, the statement concluded.

The Coalition to Support New Muslims threatened to organize nationwide protests in case the two girls are handed to the church, confirming that protests this time will lead to “a violent escalation.”

“We will not come back down this time unless every male and female captured inside monasteries are freed,” the statement read.

Rumors of women held in churches after allegedly converting to Islam had stoked sectarian strife. Last month a report that a woman was being held in a church in Imbaba after converting to Islam sparked clashes that left 15 dead.


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