Egypt

World Watch ranking: 38
Map thumbnail
Leader
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

How many Christians?
9.8 million (9.1%)

Main threats
  • Islamic oppression
  • Dictatorial paranoia 

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How many Christians are there in Egypt?

There are about 9.8 million Christians in Egypt, from a total population of more than 108 million.

How are Christians persecuted in Egypt?

In Egypt, most persecution happens at the community level. Christians regularly experience discrimination because they follow Jesus. Men can experience job loss or lack of employment opportunities, women can be harassed in the street, Christian children can be bullied at school and, in rare instances, mobs of Muslim extremists force Christians to flee their communities after an alleged blasphemy accusation. These incidents are most common in the Upper Egypt region, where Islamic hardliners are active, especially in rural communities. 

President al-Sisi and his government regularly speak positively about Egypt's Christian community – which, through the Coptic church, is long and historic. He purposely includes both Muslims and Christians in Egypt's identity. However, this stance does not always extend to areas outside of major urban centres – authorities are known to ignore or downplay the concerns of Egyptian believers. Christians also have difficulty getting permission to build church buildings, though this has improved in recent years. Plus, because of al-Sisi's authoritarian style of government, speaking out against injustice is largely pointless and can be dangerous. 

Christians who have converted from Islam experience the most severe persecution. They face enormous pressure from their family and community to return to Islam. And Egyptian security services are known to detain and intimidate converts to keep quiet about their conversion. The state also makes it impossible for converts to officially be recognised as Christians. 

There are some positive recent developments – the government has pledged to ensure that church buildings are approved, and Islamic extremists in the Sinai region are mostly defeated, for instance. On the other hand, several attacks on believers have been recorded this year. 

Meet 'Raina'

“Fanatics, or even my own family, would kill me if they saw my picture online and read I rejected Islam.” Raina, an Egyptian convert from Islam

What’s life like for Christians in Egypt?

Growing up in a Muslim family, Raina* had narrow expectations for her future: “From an early age I was told that my purpose was to get married, have children and satisfy my husband. I didn’t feel like I had much value.”

Raina did get married, and had a son. She did not feel close to her husband Sameh*, and she was horrified when he chose to follow Jesus. Everything she’d heard about Christians was bad. “My husband came to Christ first; I did not like it at all,” she says. “I had always learned that Christians were dirty and that converting to Christianity was a sin.”

Things changed when their son became very sick. He was so ill that Raina and Sameh were worried that he would die. “As my husband was praying, my son suddenly stopped shivering and his temperature went back to normal!” This miraculous healing would have been wonderful enough – but God also sent the young boy a vision that changed the life of his family. “My son opened his eyes and told us: ‘I saw Christ on the cross looking at me, and He called me, saying: “Child arise”’,” Raina remembers. “I couldn’t stand on my legs anymore. I fell down, kneeling next to my husband crying and thanking this God I never knew. At that very point I gave my life to Jesus.”

Raina wholeheartedly knew that she wanted to put her faith and trust in Jesus – but she also knew that openly being a Christian in her community would be extremely dangerous for her and her family. “We were living in a strictly Muslim village,” she says. “From the outside nothing had changed: I couldn’t stop wearing my veil all of a sudden. Converting to Christianity is seen as a shame for the family, something that fanatics say should be forbidden. If we wanted to live, we had to become secret believers.

“If you’re a secret believer in a family, that family is your first church. Sameh and I do Bible study together, share about Jesus with our children, and pray together. It’s a journey. We were never very close [before my conversion]; now we are learning what it means to support each other in marriage.”

*Name changed for security reasons

How can I help Christians in Egypt?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Egypt. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.

Open Doors works through local partners in Egypt to support the church throughout the country with literacy training, education, advocacy, medical outreach, and youth, family and women’s ministries.

please pray

Lord, when we hear about the situation in Egypt, we're reminded how often Your people found hope and worshipped You in that nation. We're reminded how Moses and the Israelites were able to show Your power to Pharaoh, and we remember when Jesus and His parents fled to Egypt to escape Herod. The footprint of Your people in Egypt stretches back to the beginning. We pray for Egyptian Christians who continue that faithful presence in their country, that they would be blessed and protected from harm. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

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