President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
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.
“I almost lost my faith not long after my father [was killed for his faith]. I don’t know how I carry my burden, but I do. I don’t feel that it’s me. It must be the Holy Spirit in my life. I might have lost God and become an atheist. I’m happy God prevented that. He chose my path. Here I can take care of my family, and here I found God. Whatever happens, even if you turned away from God: Just pray. Pray, and always return to God.”
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.
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 north-eastern area of the Sinai Peninsula.
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.