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International Religious Freedom Office

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World magazine — Majed El Shafie grew up a Muslim in Cairo, Egypt. After his conversion to Christianity as a young man, he was arrested and tortured. He will describe his torture in graphic detail, but he can’t eat anything after talking about it. He was sentenced to death by hanging and put under house arrest, but he escaped to Israel and then immigrated to Canada as a refugee in 2002.

A few years later, El Shafie became one of the key people pushing the Canadian government to launch an international religious freedom office. Now Canada’s Conservative government is working on creating such an office in its Foreign Affairs Department for the first time—the hope is to officially open the office in the next few months, though a date hasn’t been set. In late April a delegation of a half dozen Canadian members of Parliament traveled to the Washington meet with members of Congress as well as members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to discuss the new office. It was apparently the first such delegation from Canada to Washington on the issue of religious freedom.

El Shafie now heads up a religious freedom group in Toronto, One Free World International, and he said his group has been in talks with the government about the creation of such an office for six years. He sees the Arab Spring as a strong reason to get the office off the ground.

“My fear is that we’re losing an important human rights battle,” he said. “Why do they call it an Arab Spring? It’s turning to be a deadly cold winter for the minorities.”

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