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Christian charity warns of grooming epidemic in Egypt

by Tola Mbakwe

Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world, has warned of an epidemic of grooming and has urged for Egypt's government to take a stand against such injustices.

Abouna, whose name has been changed for security reasons, works in communities where kidnappings are taking place and supports the victims. He said young women and girls are targeted as part of a deliberate strategy to convert Christians to Islam.

"They start with seducing the young girls, especially the non-educated girls by telephone calls - mobiles are now in every hand," he said.

"They start to have affairs with them. And after a while, they convince them to marry and the girl finds herself trapped."
The charity has found that there are rewards for every man who succeeds in converting a girl to Islam.

Kate Ward, a Release worker whose name has been changed, said: "He will be paid, according to our information, £1500 for a non-educated woman or £3000 for an educated woman.

"After that, he might divorce them. She then goes back to a life of shame. The money is coming from religious leaders, who many believe are paid from Saudi Arabia.'

Release has claimed this deliberate strategy of persecution because many abductions take place in Upper Egypt, a poor, rural area many miles from Cairo where attitudes are ultra conservative and the persecution of Christians is most severe.
Ward added: "He will say, 'Don't worry, you'll be able to stay Christian. And when your children are born, we'll decide what we can do.' But in practice, these wives are now considered to have become Muslims. And even if they leave, their children will be forced to remain."

Release is working with partners in Egypt to help Christian communities reduce the risk of grooming and kidnapping, and to support victims.

Release contact Frances Windsor said many in the Church are now having to address the problem: "We're hearing of Christian mothers who are invited to bring their boys to the mosque to get Islamic teaching.

"They will get paid 300 Egyptian pounds when they take their sons to be educated at the mosque. Extreme poverty makes them easy targets."

Release said it's "helping develop spiritual resilience, tackle the lack of education and respond to the oppression and poverty that lie at the root of the problem in Egypt".

Listen to a report by Andrew Boyd from Release International:

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