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Many will send the girl to live with relatives in another part of the country or place her in a convent.“In such cases,” explains the researcher, “the girls are isolated from their communities.The church forbids divorce, granting it only rarely and under the strictest of criteria. And for centuries, Muslim societies have administered it, albeit rarely and at the price of a heavy stigma on the couple, particularly the woman.
Those who convert forsake their faith and community forever, as they cannot reenter the Christian faith culturally or legally.“There is a wrong perception within the Coptic community that when that happens, it’s a broken family, it’s not a proper Christian family.If the young woman has sisters, they will be affected and they won’t have a good life.Such accusations are made to save face within the Christian community.Whether well-founded or not, they attract a great deal of public attention and inflame relations between the two religious communities.Crowds of outraged Egyptians — Christian and Muslim — took to the streets in protests across the country as the story developed. The nearly yearlong saga revealed Egypt’s deep-seated religious divisions.On several occasions, protests turned violent outside churches, as angry mobs clashed. Sunni Muslims make up some 90 percent of the country’s 80.5 million people; the remaining 10 percent is Christian.Families generally discourage adolescents and youth from interacting with members of the opposite sex from a different religion.Christian families in particular often go to great lengths to prevent their children, especially girls, from developing relationships with Muslim men.If a couple wishes to separate for any other reason, they must petition the church’s family council, a process that takes years and almost never yields a legitimate divorce.“This is a problem that our society faces and we stand helpless on figuring out how to tackle it,” says , a Christian weekly newspaper headquartered in Cairo.