Saudi Arabia Allows Christian Surgeon to Return Home

The Christian surgeon who was trapped by the Saudi government for his faith has returned home to his family in Egypt after his case was publicized, reported a Christian human rights group Wednesday.

Dr. Mamdooh Fahmy, who was working as a surgeon in Saudi Arabia, has landed in Cairo, Egypt, and is now with his family after calls from concerned individuals to Saudi embassies around the world, according to Washington-based International Christian Concern (ICC).

"We are thrilled at the news that Dr. Fahmy is back home with his family after being held hostage in Saudi Arabia for almost two years," said ICC President Jeff King in a statement.

"This shows how important it is for western Christians to speak up for their persecuted brothers and sisters. It was thanks to everyone who called and pressured the Saudis that our brother is home," said King.

Fahmy wrote a letter to International Christian Concern in early August appealing for help to return home to Egypt. His prior attempts to go home for over two years were futile with the Saudi government refusing to grant him the required exit visa.

The Christian surgeon was working at Albyaan Menfhoh Medical Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, before he was removed from his position at the center six months ago, according to ICC. Fahmy has since not been able to obtain another work permit because of his Christian faith.

Harassments targeted at Fahmy began early on when his Muslim colleagues at the medical center in 2004 repeatedly pressured him to become a Muslim. After becoming tired of enduring the taunts, Fahmy told his co-workers that he was a Christian and would not change his religion. In response, the group accused him of being a missionary.

In Fahmy's letter to ICC, the doctor detailed the maltreatment he underwent because he publicly acknowledged his Christian faith in Saudi Arabia:

"On April 12, 2005, I had a surprised visit from three Saudi officials at work. Two were in civilian attire and one was a police officer. They informed me that they were from the morals policing organization (Muttawa). They proceeded to insult me publicly before the staff and patients of the medical center. They confiscated my wallet, cell phone and keys. They handcuffed me, shacked (sic) my legs and dragged me to a waiting car, then proceeded to my residence."

The Saudi government reportedly had led Fahmy in circles, promising to let him leave the country but in the end blocking his path.

Despite Fahmy's release, ICC's King urged believers to keep the Christian doctor in prayer as he readjusts to life in Egypt, which "is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians as well," as King noted.

Egypt is currently in an uproar over an unprecedented case of Mohammed Ahmed Hegazy, a Christian convert from Islam who is seeking legal recognition of his change of faith. Hegazy has been forced into hiding after receiving numerous death threats from Muslims who believe apostasy is punishable by death.

Despite the growing danger and hostilities, the Christian convert has vowed not to give up his case.

Egypt's population of 80 million is composed of about 90 percent Muslims and only about 10 percent Christians. Although the percentage of Christians in Egypt is small, it represents the largest Christian population in the Middle East.