Egyptian Christians fleeing brutal persecution seek refuge in Cyprus

Three Egyptian Christians who fled from brutal persecution in their home country are currently seeking refuge in Cyprus and asking the president and the public to protect them from radical Muslims.

(REUTERS / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)An Egyptian Christian woman mourns the death of Pope Shenouda III, the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, outside the Abbasiya Cathedral in Cairo. March 18, 2012.

Maher Elgohary, his daughter Dina and friend Rania left Egypt a month ago after enduring years of persecution and physical abuse because of their Christian faith. They are currently staying temporarily in Paphos but are appealing to Cyprus to grant them a permanent home, Cyprus Mail details.

Back in Egypt, three men had barged into Elhogary's home and threatened their lives to force them into holding up signs saying they have embraced Islam. The story was eventually published in an Islamic newspaper, but Dina said her father would not have given in to the men's demands if not for her.

Elhogary recalled how he was persecuted for years after he left Islam more than two decades ago. He said a lawsuit he filed against Egypt in 2008 may be one of the reasons for the poor treatment his family received. The case was filed to officially recognize his conversion to Christianity, a legal battle which he lost.

Dina had attempted to seek help from the United States. In 2009, she wrote President Barack Obama a letter pleading for help. The letter gained international attention, but she got no response from the American president.

Rania, on the other hand, left the country with the Elgoharys after her father disappeared. Her husband had died in the hands of Muslim radicals and her neighbors had tried to convert her to Islam and make her marry a Muslim. Tired of running from violence and almost short of money, they now want to start a new life in Cyprus.

"Please, (Cyprus) we beg you for your protection and mercy," said Elgohary. "We want to have a relaxed life, to start actually living and not to be persecuted for what we believe."

Just recently, Islamists attacked a Christian village in Upper Egypt after rumors surfaced about a church being built in the area. However, International Christian Concern says the building in question was supposed to be used as a community center, retirement home and nursery.

Four Coptic Christians sustained injuries in the attack, and a few shops and homes were destroyed. Authorities have arrested 18 Muslims in connection with the incident.