EGYPT – Healing After Suicide: Pandemic Pushes Persecuted Christians to the Edge

International Christian Concern | Emma Reeves | August 12, 2020

Egypt’s Christians exist within a delicate environment, where one misstep could lead to a loss of life or livelihood. Hypervigilance is exhausting, but necessary. The introduction of COVID-19 added a new layer of hardship, and for some Christians, this was the final straw. But through ICC’s pandemic response, new hope and life opportunities were realized.

Egypt reported its first COVID-19 case in early February. A month later, society locked down. For many Christian families, the consequences were devastating. Closing businesses forced Christians out of jobs with already low wages, leaving families scrambling. With money scarce, food became unobtainable. One family negatively impacted by this was Karim, his wife Noura, and their four-year-old toddler.

They lived in a rural village, and Karim used to spend his days working in a nearby café. But because of the lockdown, he lost his job. With each day bringing more uncertainty than the next, Karim found himself in a dark place. Discouraged and without hope for his family, Karim became suicidal.

“I was working as a waiter in a café shop. But when the coronavirus situation got bad, and many people [were] infected, the state closed all the café shops, and I become unemployed,” explained Karim. “I have no money to settle all my debts… it was a hard time. I tried to commit suicide.”

Karim reached a place of desperation and saw no end to the hardship the pandemic brought his family. But just as he was nearing complete hopelessness, Noura came to him with an idea. Around a year ago, Noura enrolled in a sewing course to learn how to make clothes and bedding. At the time, Karim had opposed this idea, as many husbands do not want their wives to learn a trade. But now, Noura’s sewing skills are what saved her family from poverty.

“I enrolled in a sewing course one year ago, I have learned so much,” shared Noura. “I wish to expand my work and try to create and sew women’s suits …. Now I can start [to] sew bed sheets and fix some clothes.”

She offered to teach Karim how to sew and proposed that they would jointly open a small business. Karim agreed, but there was one small problem. How could they afford to buy a sewing machine? ICC learned of their story, and as part of our pandemic response, immediately responded. Our field team visited the family and together went shopping for the sewing machine that would best fit their needs. Cloth and other materials were also purchased.

Today, Karim and Noura are happily running a tailoring small business from their home. “I will make my wife teach me the craft, and I wish to work well. Then I can buy another sewing machine,” Karim said. Their new sewing machine and supplies are helping them earn enough money to keep food on the table, as well as to settle their debts. This new income came as a blessing, as Karim has also struggled for years with stomach issues, and doctors warned he might need surgery soon.

“Since November 2017, Karim has had stomach problems. He visited many doctors. Some of them said that he has microbes in the blood, and others said he needed an appendectomy,” explained Noura.

Karim said, “I was on edge to have surgery, but the last doctor I visited told me, ‘no it’s just a stomach problem and there is no need to make any surgeries for you.’ I was detected many times with a C.T. scan; I spent much money on that experience. Also, I married five years ago, and I borrowed many times to [cover] the cost of the marriage. Now I have a child.”