Egypt: Muslims try to close center that performs free heart operations on kids


By Jeremy Reynalds

Sir Magdi Yacoub

A charitable medical center that performs free heart operations on children in Egypt is under threat from radical Muslims, who want it closed down because it was founded by a Christian surgeon.

According to a news release from Barnabas Aid, the center in Aswan city was established by the world-renowned cardiothoracic surgeon, Sir Magdi Habib Yacoub, an Egyptian Christian who emigrated to Britain in 1962. His charitable organization covers all the center’s costs, and operations are performed free of charge on both Christian and Muslim children alike.

Barnabas Aid said the center’s Muslim director was interviewed on Egyptian television about the protests by radical elements in Aswan. She said that closing down the government licensed center would be a big loss for Egypt.

Barnabas Aid said Sir Magdi, who specializes in surgery on children with congenital heart defects, goes to the center in Aswan himself to perform operations on needy youngsters. His charity sends teams of medics to various parts of the developing world to treat for free children suffering from heart disease.

The protests against his medical center follow the election last month of an Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, in Egypt, which heightened concerns for the future of Christians in the country.

Barnabas Aid said although Morsi has made encouraging overtones about being a “president for all Egyptians,” and even pledged to appoint a Christian vice-president, it seems that Islamists have been further emboldened by his election to push for their agenda.

Sir Magdi, who was knighted in 1992, qualified as a doctor in Cairo in 1957 but soon experienced discrimination, which prompted him to emigrate. He became a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Harefield Hospital in 1973, and under his leadership it became the country’s leading transplant center.

Sir Magdi was involved in the first UK heart transplant, and his pioneering research has led to great advancements in heart and lung surgery. He is Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Imperial College London, having retired from the National Health service in 2001.