A Life in Limbo, Kept Buoyant by Hope

Sami Souriel with Mervat Wahba at CIANA after receiving news about Wahba's green card. Astoria, NY. Photo: Henry Cornejo

When it came time to wait for her green card, Mervat Wahba could deal with her life being on hold, as difficult as that was. The worst part of it all was that her daughter was afraid.

The Egyptian immigrant and her nine year old daughter, Miriam, had joined her husband, a religious asylee, in 2015 after four years of separation. Wahba immediately applied for a green card, but one year of waiting turned to three and Miriam worried about what would happen if the family had to return to Egypt.

Back home, friends and family spoke of continued persecutions against Christians.

“Miriam was afraid of even going to church that somebody might stop her, beat her up, because in Egypt, as a Christian, that could happen,” Wahba says. “Here we feel we can go to church and we can be free.”

Her fears were not unfounded. Persecution of Christians in Egypt is at an unprecedented high, with several attacks on churches in the past year. A week after the end of Ramadan, despite a speech by Egyptian President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi encouraging tolerance toward Christians, a mob destroyed cars and property in the town of Samalot during the celebration of a Coptic Christian woman’s con