What does persecution look like in Egypt?
Christians in Egypt report that freedom of religion violations are mostly experienced in the community. Incidents vary from Christian women being harassed while walking in the street, to a mob of angry Muslims forcing a whole community of Christians to move out, leaving their houses and belongings to be confiscated. These sort of incidents take place mostly in Upper Egypt, where Salafist movements are active in the rural communities. The Islamic Salafi al-Nour party continues to exist and operate legally, although the Constitution prohibits religious parties. Their influence is considerable in rural societies where there is a high percentage of illiteracy and poverty.
President al-Sisi regularly speaks positively about Egypt's Christian community. However, the lack of serious law enforcement and the unwillingness of local authorities to protect Christians leave them vulnerable to all kinds of attacks, especially in Upper Egypt. Communal hostility and mob violence, in particular, continue to cause difficulties. In addition, due to the dictatorial nature of the regime, it is futile for church leaders or other Christians to speak out against these practices.
Furthermore, in clear contrast to how mosques are dealt with, the building of new churches is restricted – despite promises from the president that churches in every neighbourhood will be legalised through official registration.
Christians with a Muslim background have great difficulties in living out their faith since they face enormous pressure from their families to return to Islam. The state also makes it impossible for them to get any official recognition of their conversion.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Christians living in Upper Egypt (the southern part of the country), and in rural areas in the northern Nile Delta, are most at risk – Islamic extremist movements are most active in these areas.
Christians who have converted from Muslim backgrounds are especially vulnerable to violent persecution.
“Even though he knows I am a Christian he commented on my outfit. Then he slapped me in the face two times and shouted more insults at me. The police said they wouldn’t let me go home to my sick son if I did not retract my complaint.”Meral, a 30-year-old mother attacked for not wearing Islamic dress during Ramadan
What has changed this year?
Egypt has dropped 15 places in the World Watch List, mainly because there have been fewer reports of violence against Christians, including fewer faith-based killings and instances of properties being attacked. (Fires were reported in nine different church buildings in August 2022, but the cause of these fires remains unclear in most cases.)
Even so, the level of violence against Christians is still very high. At least five Christians were killed last year, and more than 20 believers were attacked, among other reported incidents. In addition, a significant number of Christian converts from Islam have been arrested and physically abused by the Egyptian security services.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Egypt?
Open Doors works through local partners in Egypt to support the church with literacy training, education support, advocacy, medical outreach, and youth, family and women’s ministries.
How can you pray for Egypt?
- Please pray that the authorities would act to protect Christians' legal rights
- Pray for God's protection and strength for new believers from Muslim backgrounds
- Pray that the love and courage of Egyptian Christians would influence their neighbours and draw many people to Christ.
Dear Heavenly Father, please bring justice for our brothers and sisters who are deprived of their rights in Egypt. For those living in dangerous situations today, we pray for Your strength, courage, peace and protection. Empower your ancient church in Egypt to continue shining brightly and drawing many people to You, even in the midst of persecution. Amen.