Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Coptic Christian faces torture and death due to religion! Request for help.

    Dear Concerned Friend,

I have never written an email like this, but the dire nature of the issue before us demands an immediate and resounding response.

At this moment, the United States is threatening to deport Mr. Sameh Khouzam back to Egypt at the request of the Egyptian government. Mr. Khouzam is a Coptic Christian currently held at the York County Prison in Pennsylvania charged with crimes against a Muslim family in Egypt.

Why does that matter?

First, to date, no one has presented one shred of credible or verifiable evidence to substantiate the charges against Mr. Khouzam.

Additionally, we are certain that if Sameh is deported he will face torture and probable death upon his return. The government of Egypt has a well-documented history of human rights abuses against its own citizens, particularly against religious minorities like Coptic Christians.

In other words, Mr. Khouzam is facing imminent torture and likely death simply because he is a Coptic Christian--a member of a religious minority in Egypt.

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy will not stand still and let this happen. But, we need your help!

To save Sameh from certain torture and death we need you to click here and sign our Petition to Save Sameh Khouzam immediately.

Sameh Khouzam left Egypt in 1998 under intense pressure to change his religion. He was detained by the Egyptian government and forcefully "encouraged" to convert from his Coptic Christianity to Islam. He escaped Egypt, however, and fled to America - fearing for his life. Afterward, the Egyptian government informed United States officials that Mr. Khouzam was wanted for completely unsubstantiated crimes against a Muslim family.

Mr. Khouzam has proven to be an upstanding member of his local community yet when he voluntarily reported to U.S. immigration authorities last month he was detained, imprisoned, and scheduled for deportation.

He is now set to be deported MONDAY, JUNE 18!

This travesty of justice condemns Sameh to certain torture and death upon his return to Egypt even though there is NO CONCRETE EVIDENCE he committed any crimes in Egypt.

I believe he is being persecuted because of his religious identity.

And the potential for violence against Sameh is real. In fact, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals found it is "more likely than not" he will be tortured upon his return to Egypt. Yet, for apparent political reasons, our government still intends to deport him.

That’s why I am determined to act to right this terrible wrong.

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy is poised to IMMEDIATELY deliver your signed Petition to Save Sameh Khouzam to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

But there is no time to waste. Sameh is scheduled to be deported THIS MONDAY!

And the U.S. Government simply will not act unless confronted by an overwhelming outpouring of outrage from its citizens!

That’s why I need you to click here and sign our Petition to Save Sameh Khouzam right now!

Your participation may help save Sameh’s life. But I need you to do more than just sign the petition.

I need you to forward this urgent, life and death petition to as many of your family members, friends, co-workers, co-religionists and others as possible. At the very least, please take a moment and immediately forward this appeal to at least 5 others.

Your few seconds of effort can make all the difference in rescuing Mr. Sameh Khouzam from the likelihood of torture, and possibly, death.

Thank you for caring about basic human dignity and the fundamental right to religious freedom. Thank you for signing our petition. Thank you for making a difference.

We at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy are delighted to partner with you to help preserve and protect religious freedom for all peoples.


Joseph Grieboski
Institute on Religion and Public Policy


Institute on Religion and Public Policy
1620 I Street, NW, Suite LL10
Washington, D.C. 20006
Phone: (202) 835-8760

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy is an international, inter-religious non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring freedom of religion as the foundation for security, stability, and democracy. The Institute works globally with government policymakers, religious leaders, business executives, academics, international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and others in order to develop, protect, and promote fundamental rights - especially the right of religious freedom - and contributes to the intellectual and moral foundation of the fundamental right of religious freedom. The Institute encourages and assists in the effective and cooperative advancement of religious freedom and democracy throughout the world.

“Comprehensive” Sex Education is Ineffective: Abstinence Works, Major National Study Shows

“Comprehensive” Sex Education is Ineffective: Abstinence Works, Major National Study Shows

By Elizabeth O’Brien

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 13, 2007 ( – One of the largest and most comprehensive studies of teen sex education, conducted by Dr. Stan Weed of the Institute for Research and Evaluation in Salt Lake City, shows why abstinence is the most successful method of preventing physical and emotional complications resulting from pre-marital sexual activity. The study (see followed the education and behavior of over 400,000 adolescents in 30 different states for 15 years.

The final report, entitled “Abstinence” or “Comprehensive” Sex Education? begins by pointing out the flaws in a national study on abstinence released by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Conducted in April 2007, this previous study examined the progress of teens who participated in four different abstinence education programs. The final report indicated that abstinence education was ineffective and that young adolescents should receive “comprehensive” sex education, that is, sex-education that teaches about various sexual behaviors and “safe-sex” methods.

After examining the Mathematica study’s methods, the Institute found several major errors that made the study non-representative of American sex education. First, says the more recent study, it took sample teens from “high-risk” sectors of the population, such as poor African or American single-parent households. During the study, young people received abstinence education in pre-adolescence, but then received no follow-up training during adolescence. They were also examined about their sexual activity several years after any learning might have taken effect.

Dr. Stan Weed told “Within the United States, sexual activity rates have been going down among teenagers for about the last 12 or 13 years, and that coincides with when the abstinence education started. Abortion, pregnancies and out of wedlock births rates have also been going down among teens during that same time period. However, pregnancy, abortion and out of wedlock births have been rising for the older age group, between 19-25, a group that has not been targeted by abstinence programs.”

Outlining these limitations and the report’s inaccuracies, Dr. Weed highlighted the problems that sexually active teens encounter and the failure of “comprehensive” sex education to remedy such issues. These include teen pregnancy, STD’s and poor emotional health. Sexually active young people are also more often physically assaulted or raped.

“Comprehensive” sex education also fails to explain the limitation of condoms, said the recent study, pointing out that “many consequences of teen sexual activity are not prevented by condom use.” Condoms are never a total guarantee against STD’s, and so there is no kind of truly “safe” sex outside of marriage. Secondly, despite 20 years of sex education, young people even fail to use condoms consistently. Most importantly, however, condoms do nothing to prevent the heartbreak, depression and low self-esteem caused by sexual activity.

The Utah Institute researchers also investigated previous major studies on “comprehensive” sex education and found that these programs had little impact on the behavior of teens during their education and no long-term effects whatsoever. In fact, “of 50 rigorous studies spanning the past 15 years, only one of them reports an improvement in consistent condom use after a period of at least one year.”

When evaluating abstinence programs, the Institute investigated both high-risk and moderate-risk students in programs such as Reasons of the Heart, Heritage Keepers, Sex Respect and Teen Aid. Students in these programs were far less likely to be sexually active and those who were reduced their sexual activity by a large percentage. In the Reasons of the Heart study, for example, researchers found that “adolescent program participants were approximately one half as likely as the matched comparison group to initiate sexual activity after one year. The program’s effect was as strong for the African American subgroup in the sample as it was overall.”

The most successful abstinence programs were those that emphasized the risk of pre-marital sexual activity. They showed how abstinence fully protects a young person from STD’s, teen pregnancy and emotional trauma. They underlined the importance of self-control and responsibility and gave students the positive goal of a stable and committed marriage towards which to work in future. At the same time, however, researchers also found that it was crucial to re-educate adolescents about abstinence each successive year.

Dr. Weed concludes, “Well-designed and well-implemented abstinence education programs can reduce teen sexual activity by as much as one half for periods of one to two years, substantially increasing the number of adolescents who avoid the full range of problems related to teen sexual activity. Abandoning this strategy…would appear to be a policy driven by politics rather than by a desire to protect American teens.”

These results are consistent with many other findings, including a 2005 study by Medical Issues Analyst Reginald Finger of Focus on the Family. He investigated over 7,000 people in the United States that indicated the many social and emotional benefits to remaining abstinent. (see


See Related Coverage:

Bush: Abstinence Only 100 % Effective Means of Preventing Pregnancy, HIV, STDs

Abstinence Alone Protects Fully Against HIV, Ugandan First Lady Tells Youth

Abstinence Education Works - New Report Offers More Evidence

A New Blog

Clement Ferguson writes: "I moved my blog over to blogspot where all the cool kids hang out. Would you please update the link on your site? Thanks!"

Sure thing Clement!

To give you an idea of what Clement and his blog are about, here's a bit from his latest post.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Tithing Our Time:

I know that I've really had to learn to organize my time lately, especially with getting ready for marriage in less than a month. But on top of this we have work (or school) and family and friends and cleaning and shopping and reading and, occasionally, time to relax. When balancing all these things, it's important that we place Christ first -- for if we lose track of our life rooted in him, we end up being bounced around all over the place. Our actions and even our desires will be like a yo-yo swinging up and down, and we will be overwhelmed by the chaos of our everyday lives. The Church Fathers often likened the Church to a boat traveling through stormy seas, and many early churches in the middle east can be found which have round windows in emulation of ships. Without putting Christ first, our time can really slip out of our hands, to the point where we feel that we don't have any time.

For us people out in the "real world" of work, we're often exhausted by the time we return home. And for those who haven't graduated yet, school places great demands on a student. Yet we must make sure that we encourage ourselves to understanding that God must come first. This is part of what must happen if we as individuals, and collectively as the Church, are to truly experience transformation.

For individuals, a comparison can be made with tithing. Tithing ensures that we give our firstfruits back to God in gratitude and that he is first and foremost in our mind and heart. It sacralizes the economic aspect of our life and ensures that we truly value our money: giving 10% of one's income necessarily means that one has to more closely examine each purchase and consider if it is really necessary or not. Furthermore, tithing ensures that we give out of gratitude and for growth, not just to meet the bare needs of the church.

Likewise, we must make sure that we are at the very least tithing our time to God, with us preferably laboring on the path to "pray without ceasing" instead of just meeting "spiritual needs." Do I feed and clean my body in the morning without nourishing and cleansing my soul through prayer? Do I labor many hours in video games and YouTube and Facebook without laboring equally in scripture and spiritual reading? Do I talk at length about this world without revealing to others the Kingdom through the Gospel? Do I examine and scrutinize my neighbor without investigating myself? I am guilty of all these things!

For the parish, while we must handle things like maintaining the building and celebrating important events, we must ensure that -- far more than tithing -- our parish life is centered on Christ. When we read St. David writing in his psalms of praying seven times a day, he is referring to the Liturgy of the Hours that was present in Judaism and which has been preserved by the Orthodox Church.

Can you imagine praying seven times a day, for 15 minutes to over an hour at each of these occasions? To do something like this -- something that certainly I don't do, something actualized for the most part only by monastics -- means that each day in our lives very visibly revolves around the worship and service of Christ. It means that we really have to focus in those moments of prayer, and we have to make those moments outside of that prayer purposeful because we recognize that our time is limited. By structuring time in this way, we ensure that we use our time wisely.

Since most of us aren't monastics and have numerous tasks that often prevent us from praying aside from morning and night, this means that we really have to prioritize. And we also have to remember that prayer is not an end in itself, just as life in "the world" is not an end in itself. We have to ensure that we're living a life that finds its life and joy in receiving God's love and pouring that love out. But if we don't make the effort to reorganize and restructure our time, then we can't really proceed further to using the grace of God to investigate ourselves and to open ourselves to be transformed into his likeness.

One thing that we must recognize is that tithing our time and tithing our money share one important aspect, an aspect central to all actions of love: sacrifice. It means to put aside ourselves and to take up what we must take up. It will be difficult at first. But as we progress, the things that we used to distract ourselves with seem like so little in comparison to the fulfillment and joy that God grants us when we bear this cross and thus open ourselves to be loved by him.

We Orthodox have the church calendar which assists us in sacralizing our time through a particular cycle of feasts and fasting periods. Furthermore, each day is guided by a number of readings from Scripture, and also celebrates the victory of a variety of Saints commemorated each day. The daily readings and the lives of the saints can be read on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese web site. Another useful tool for spiritual growth is the Prologue from Ohrid, which has detailed lives of the saints, readings, and meditations for each day. Try spending 15 minutes or so each morning reading from each of these resources, and see how it begins to transform not only your time but your faith. As you use the church calendar to transform your seasons, you will begin to transform your days, then your hours, then every moment of your life.

Also, for more information about the Liturgy of the Hours, its roots in Jewish worship, and its transfiguration in the light of Christ's Gospel, I recommend Father Alexander Schmemann's Introduction to Liturgical Theology.