Orphaned by Conversion?

Coptic Orphans has two criteria for accepting a child into our flagship program, Not Alone: the child’s father must be deceased, or the child’s father abandons the family — such as when the father have converted from Christianity. That’s because conversion in Egypt is permanent, and has permanent implications for children very similar, at best, to a father’s death.

Young Christian mothers look after their children at a home in the village of Deir Azra. (photo: Holly Pickett, One Magazine)

Awhile ago, One Magazine, a publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, touched on the issue of religious conversion in Egypt and how it affects children in an article on Coptic women.

This article raises interesting issues that shed light on why a father’s conversion comes with some of the same difficulties as being orphaned, from a different perspective than that of Coptic Orphans:

The divorce has devastated the lives of the young woman, her two younger sisters and of course her mother. Under Egyptian family law, the father receives custody of the children when he converts to Islam and files for divorce. To keep her children, the mother sent each of her two youngest daughters to live with different relatives. She then moved to a cramped apartment in a low-income neighborhood in Cairo. As Simone El Gohany explains, Egyptian authorities can only remove children from their mother if they live in a residence belonging to one or both of the parents. Since the divorce, the children’s father has made no attempt to contact the girls or his ex-wife. He does not pay child support, and Egyptian law does not require him to do so. Still, the children fear he will show up one day or another and demand the girls move in with him. As a result, the girls no longer attend school.


How do you think this situation will impact these girls’ future?

Also, what do you think about this article’s perspective in general? Is it fair, or are there realities it misses?

About Nathan Hollenbeck

Nathan joined Coptic Orphans in 2006. It was his response to a call to help return Egypt's hospitality to the Holy Family on behalf of Christ Emmanuel and the Theotokos, after they changed his own life as a youth. He has a passion to fulfill God's command to "bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause." (Isaiah 1:17, ESV)