fbpx

2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #16

EGYPT

Country rank

16

Persecution score

75.07

Last year’s rank

16

Region

Middle East  North Africa

Persecution Type

Dictatorial paranoia (Strong), Islamic oppression (Strong), Clan oppression (Medium)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

102,941,000

Christians

16,250,000 (OD estimate%)  According to OD-estimate

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Presidential Republic

Leader

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

 In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Egypt through:

• Equipping and training of believers
• Bible and Christian literature translation and distribution
• Literacy classes
• Socio-economic development
• Advocacy and emergency relief
• Medical outreach
• Widows ministry

ABOUT EGYPT

 What does persecution look like in Egypt?

Persecution against Christians in Egypt happens mostly at the community level. Incidents occur most frequently in Upper Egypt, where Salafist movements exert a strong influence on the rural communities due to high levels of illiteracy and poverty. Incidents may vary from Christian women being harassed while walking in the street, to Christian communities being driven out of their homes by extremist mobs. 

Al-Azhar University, one of the most influential Islamic universities in the world, has a prominent place in Egyptian society and even in the constitution. The university’s Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayyeb has clearly stated that there is no place in Islam for Muslims to convert to Christianity.

Although Egypt’s government speaks positively about Egypt’s Christian community, 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. Due to the dictatorial nature of the regime, neither church leaders nor other Christians are in a position to speak out against these practices. 

Furthermore, in contrast to how mosques and Islamic organizations are dealt with, churches and Christian non-governmental organizations are restricted in their ability to build new churches or running social services. Christians of all backgrounds face difficulties in finding new places for communal worship. The difficulties come both from state restrictions, as well as from communal hostility and mob violence.

Christians from a Muslim background often have great difficulty 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. 

How women experience persecution

Christian women in Egypt are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and violence. Although harassment, forced marriage or marriage by abduction, and sexual assault are common practices affecting all women in Egypt to varying degrees, there have been reports that Christian women are particularly targeted for marriage by abduction, mainly in rural areas, villages and southern towns. 
This means that Christian families are often overcome with fear at the prospect of abduction, especially in rural areas. 
There are also reports that Christian girls are lured into marriage. These girls are often under-age and come from vulnerable families. Traditional practices do not help in this regard – early marriage is part of the norm in more rural and traditional societies.
Several challenges face women who decide to leave Islam to become a Christian. They could encounter blasphemy laws, a reduced status in society and forced adherence to traditional customs. They could also face divorce from their Muslim husbands, leaving them without any financial support. The custody of their children may be taken from them, as well as inheritance rights. 
They are also at risk from within their own family, because women are not expected to bring shame on the family’s honor. It is difficult for women to escape any dangerous situations, since women don’t tend to live or travel alone.
In the workplace, Christian women can face double discrimination because of their faith and gender. If they are known to be Christians, they could miss out on promotion and other career benefits. 

How men experience persecution

All over Egypt, finding work is a huge pressure on men, particularly in Upper Egypt. For young Christian men living in rural areas, this can be especially difficult. One reason for this is that some Muslim shop-owners openly call upon their Muslim customers to not buy from Christians, as some Muslims may believe that food made by a Christian is impure to eat. 
Some Christian men are not permitted to participate in government or even football teams due to their conspicuously Christian names. The financial hardship of families can be used against Christian boys as a trap: Some Muslims will offer financial help to Christian boys, but when the boy is unable to repay it, they tell him that it if he converts to Islam, the debt will be dropped.
Social media is increasingly becoming a tool to trigger physical violence against Christian men. For example, a large group of Muslims in Minya Governate attacked the home of a Christian man and his brothers because of a message that had been posted on the Facebook page of his son, who lives in another region of Egypt. The message was deemed insulting to Islam. Despite an apology video from the son that claimed that his account was hacked, the police arrested him for blasphemy, together with his brother and three of his uncles.
The impact on a family because of persecution against a Christian man can be catastrophic. Being the main breadwinner, imprisonment, beatings, kidnapping (involving a ransom) or even murder can result in financial hardship that affects the whole family. Not only that, the attacks can prompt a deep sense of shame and brokenness, shattering the confidence and self-worth of husbands and fathers. Put together, the stability and well-being of the whole family can come under tremendous threat, resulting in higher rates of domestic violence and divorce. 

What has changed this year?

Although Egypt’s place in the World Watch List ranking remains unchanged, there has been a slight increase in overall opposition to Christians since last year. Fewer incidents of violence against Christians were reported, but this is offset by an increase in opposition in family, community and church life.   

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Most incidents and mob attacks take place in Upper Egypt, the southern part of the country which is known to be more conservative and radical than the north. The Minya Governate is notorious for having the highest number of attacks on Christians. However, Christians in the economically disadvantaged rural areas in the north experience a similar degree of oppression at the hands of Islamic extremists, especially in the villages and towns of the Nile Delta region. 
Islamic extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood have nationwide support, but violent Islamic militants are only openly active in the northeastern area of the Sinai Peninsula. 

How can I help Christians in Egypt?

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Egypt?

Working through local churches and partners, Open Doors supports the church in Egypt with literacy training, education, advocacy support, medical care, and youth, family and women’s ministry.  

Pray

– Pray for the release of all Christians imprisoned or held captive, and for the safety of all Christians as they go about their daily lives.
– Pray for an end to all false accusations and senseless attacks against Christians, and that there will be an urgency in local police forces to seek justice for all wrongdoing.
– Pray that Christians in Egypt will have courage and wisdom to shine the light of Christ brightly in their communities. 

A PRAYER FOR EGYPT

Lord Jesus, break through and bring about the safe release of all Christians kidnapped, imprisoned or forcibly held because of their faith. Bring an end to all senseless attacks and abductions against Your children. Build the faith of Your people, and help them to persevere despite enormous challenges. Protect families and may Your peace fill the hearts of the fearful. Move Egypt’s leaders to protect the rights of the Christian minority, and instill a determination among local police to seek out justice for wrongdoing. Amen.  

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in  Egypt, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.