Protest in Egypt Over Alleged Forced Conversion of Women Ends

Several hundred Egyptian Coptic Christians ended a sit-in protest on Monday where they were denouncing the forced conversion of two women to Islam.

Many of the several hundred young Coptic Christians carried crosses as they assembled at the Mar Girgis Church in Assuit, Egypt. They believed that two Christian women, Marian Ayad And Teresa Gorgy, both medical students, had been kidnapped and forced to change religions.

Coptic Christians make up about 6% of predominantly Muslim Egypt.

The protest ended when security sources agreed to allow the church to verify if the conversions were voluntary or not.

Church sources on Monday said that the two students were allowed to return to the home of relatives after being under police protection Sunday night.

Egyptian officials at the site had maintained that the pair had converted voluntarily to Islam and that the church had been officially notified so the conversion could be documented.

Once security official said however, that "(Official) measures proclaiming them Muslim have not been taken,"

This conversion incident comes after another one that took place two months ago. Previously, a Coptic Christian woman's conversion to Islam resulted in similar protests.

At the time, Pope Shenouda III, the Egyptian Coptic Christian's spiritual head, had sequestered himself inside the Wadi al-Natrun church after young protestors there had been arrested.

The controversy ended when the woman involved was returned to the Church and the youths were released.

In Egypt, conversions are a sensitive topic. Coptic Christians are free to convert to Islam, while Muslims cannot convert to Christianity. Muslim men are allowed to marry Christian women but Christian men cannot marry a Muslim women unless they convert first.

Egyptian authorities have advised potential converts to Islam to speak with their church officials before they are no longer allowed to return to Christianity.