Egypt, North Africa
Political Leader: President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak
Religions: Islam 86.5%, Christianity 13%, Other 0.5%
Persecution Ranking: No. 18
Number of Terrorist Groups: 12
Acts of Terrorism: 132; Casualties: 330
Percent of Corruption: 67%
% of People in Poverty: 20%
Egypt, officially known as the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country in North Africa that includes the Sinai Peninsula, a land bridge to Asia. Egypt borders Libya to the west, Sudan to the south and the Gaza Strip and Israel to the east. The northern coast borders the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern coast borders the Red Sea. Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa. The vast majority of its estimated 80 million people live near the banks of the Nile River in an area of about 15,000 square miles, where the only arable agricultural land is found. Egypt is well known for its pyramids, Pharaohs and the Nile.
The Egyptian government’s well-known opposition to Islamist terrorism and its effective intelligence and security services have made it less likely that terror groups will seek safe haven there. However, Egypt’s rugged northern Sinai region remained a haven for smuggling arms and explosives into Gaza and a transit point for Gazan Palestinians trying to infiltrate Israel. Although al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad was the only terrorist group to successfully commit attacks in Egypt in 2006, the Egyptian government broke up two other alleged terrorist groups before the groups could conduct operations. One group was reportedly planning attacks; the other was reportedly planning to send foreign fighters to Iraq. In the past few years, Egypt has tightened its terror finance regulations. Egypt maintained its strengthened security measures for airports, seaports, and the Suez Canal.
The Egyptian judicial system does not allow plea bargaining, and terrorists have historically been prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Muslims make up 86.5% of Egypt’s population, while indigenous Coptic Christians comprise only about 13%. The number of Muslim converts to Christianity remains unknown. Egypt has denounced a U.S. report on the African nation’s worsening condition of religious freedom. Released September 14, 2007, the State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report said that within the past year the Egyptian government’s respect for religious freedom had “declined.” Harsh treatment of converts from Islam to Christianity topped the report’s list of violations.
Challenges for Christians:
Egypt is ranked No. 18 among nations that are the worst persecutors of Christians based on Open Doors 2007 “World Watch List.” “The government of Egypt has denied conversion to Christianity even by people who were born into a Christian family, later converted to Islam and then want to go back,” U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom John Hanford said regarding the latest U.S. State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report. In April 2007, a Cairo court rejected the right of converts to Islam to return to Christianity, the report said. The decision overturned three years of rulings that had allowed at least 32 “re-conversions” to Christianity. Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court is due to rule on the appeal of 12 of these former Christians on November 17, 2007. At least 200 cases of Christian converts to Islam who now wish to return to their original faith are pending in Egyptian courts, the report stated.
Much is at stake for would-be converts. The report noted that marriage, divorce, alimony, child custody and burial are based on one’s religion under Egyptian law. Additionally, kidnapping and forced religious conversion of Christian women to Islam remained a contentious issue, the religious freedom document stated.
- Pray for the Egyptian government to continue its strong opposition against Islamist terrorism. Pray for intelligence and security services to continue to be effective, so it will remain unlikely that terror groups will seek safe haven in Egypt.
- Thank God that the Church in Egypt has survived for nearly 2,000 years, despite times of discrimination and severe persecution. Praise God for His faithfulness in Egypt.
- Pray for Egypt’s government, courts and police. Pray that they would implement laws that are fair and humane for all.
- There have been Coptic Christians in Egypt for over a thousand years and it is by far one of the biggest groups of Christians anywhere in the Middle East. Pray that Coptic Christians today would be filled with the Holy Spirit and have a strong relationship with God.
- Persecution of Christians is on the increase. They can face intimidation and police brutality and some of died at the hands of Islamic extremists. Pray for courage for Christians to stand firm in their faith.
- Pray for Egyptian Christians to play a unique role in reaching other Muslim lands in the Middle East. Pray for vision and resources that would equip people for this strategic challenge.
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, Wikipedia, Country Reports on Terrorism 2006, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Open Doors, World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, Compass Direct News, The World Factbook