According to a new report by Open Doors, Christians in Egypt are facing “unprecedented levels of persecution.” Egypt is home to the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Discrimination and segregation are a normal part of an Egyptian Christian’s daily life, and the number of attacks against their communities and churches by ISIS have increased within the last year. Although the Egyptian President has made some positive overtures to the country’s Christians, the other levels of government continue to reject any positive steps forward and view Christians as second class citizens.
01/11/2018 Egypt (The Guardian) – Christians in Egypt are facing unprecedented levels of persecution, with attacks on churches and the kidnap of girls by Islamist extremists intent on forcing them to marry Muslims, a report says.
In the past year, Egypt has moved up an annual league table of persecution of Christians compiled by the charity Open Doors. According to its World Watch List, North Korea is still the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a Christian, and Nepal has had the biggest increase in persecution.
But Egypt, home to the largest Christian community in the Middle East, is of particular worry. Officially about 10% of the 95 million population are Christian, although many believe the figure is significantly higher.
The overwhelming majority are Orthodox, with up to 1 million evangelical Christians and 250,000 Catholics. Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas on Sunday amid tight security, days after at least 11 were killed in attacks. The president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, attended midnight mass at a new cathedral 30 miles (45km) east of the capital as tens of thousands of armed soldiers patrolled streets around churches all over Egypt.
According to Open Doors, 128 Christians were killed in Egypt for their faith and more than 200 were driven out of their homes in 2017. It attributed the rise in persecution to “the overspill of Islamic terrorists driven out of Iraq and Syria”.
Last Easter, two church bombings killed 49 people, and another 29 were killed when extremists attacked people travelling to a monastery in May. More than 15 girls in Minya governorate were kidnapped in 2017 to be forced to marry Muslims and convert to Islam, Open Doors said.
“Michael Jones”, a Cairo-based businessman and evangelical Christian, told the Guardian there was a gulf between statements from the national leadership regarding the Christian community and actions at a local level.
“You hear the president speaking about Christians with a lot of respect and sympathy. Just a few days ago, he made a beautiful, emotional speech when inaugurating our new cathedral. It looked like an amazing affirmation that the state is supporting the church and the Christian community, and doing everything it can to guarantee our welfare,” said Jones, who asked for his real name not to be used.
“Then you have have the local authorities in villages and towns – police, judges, business owners – and it’s evident that many of them are infected with a rejection of Christianity. You see this in daily practices – not usually violence, but discrimination.