JUNE 7, 2017
Ehab Samir is a 52-year-old Egyptian native and one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In facing the constraints imposed by the government of Egypt on their worship, most of the Witnesses there have been treated by authorities “as though they were criminals,” says Mr. Samir. So he found it comforting to read a Web article that acknowledged the situation just as it is.
The article, entitled “Dr. Riham Atef Writes: Jehovah’s Witnesses,” was published on August 19, 2016, by Shbab Misr, an online news source in Egypt. Dr. Atef, an assistant professor at the University of Cairo and a journalist, challenged the misunderstanding about the Witnesses that prevails in Egypt. She is personally acquainted with some of Jehovah’s Witnesses and, having done much research about them, said: “I am convinced of their humanity and respect for the beliefs of others.”
“They Promote Love and Peace”
Dr. Atef identified her intended audience as “those who know nothing about Jehovah’s Witnesses and those who have come to hate them because of inaccurate information they have received.” Her article summarized some of the primary beliefs of the Witnesses and mentioned that “there are many details provided on their website, www.jw.org.”
After making an objective evaluation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Dr. Atef saw a stark contrast with the way that the Witnesses are commonly viewed in Egypt. She observed: “They are banned, and I don’t understand the reason. They are politically neutral. . . . They promote love and peace.” Dr. Atef reasoned with her readers: “Are these reasons to ban them? Or are they banned because their Bible teachings differ from the teachings of the church?”
‘I Long to See the Ban Lifted’
Mr. Samir so enjoyed the article about the Witnesses that he felt compelled to write a letter of appreciation to the editor. He remarked: “I have read numerous articles in the media [in Egypt] about Jehovah’s Witnesses, but few articles spoke positively about them. So I praise Dr. Riham Atef for her courage and honesty.” The online news source published Mr. Samir’s response on December 11, 2016.
In his letter, Mr. Samir expressed his disappointment with the unjustified mistreatment of the Witnesses and identified as a cause the false stories that emanate from church clergymen. Mr. Samir stated that the defamatory stories are the root cause of the ill-treatment that he has personally suffered. He then observed: “The best way to know a person is to talk to him personally. So I would like to thank Dr. Riham Atef for what she wrote.”
Mr. Samir concluded his letter with the heartfelt sentiment: “I long to see the unjust ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses lifted so that we can practice our worship freely in our country.”
The Prospect of Freedom of Religion
Decades ago, Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoyed freedom of worship in Egypt and were registered as a religion. In 1960, however, they were stripped of their legal status and were refused many of the religious and other human rights granted to various Christian religions in Egypt.
Since then, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Egypt have continued to prove that they are stable members of society, people who “promote love and peace” in all circumstances, as acknowledged by Dr. Atef. Many others join Mr. Samir in their desire to see the Witnesses accorded their fundamental rights and again enjoy freedom of religion in Egypt.