Why Are Egypt’s Churches So Often Targeted?
By Claire Evans
09/27/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – In Egypt, reports are constantly flooding in that, once again, Islamic hardliners have gathered to attack churches. They demonstrate when there is a whisper of church legalization or that Christians are praying in an unauthorized building. When the presence of Christianity offends, for no other reason than existing, extremists indiscriminately attack the entire Christian community.
One Christian lamented, “The question begins to emerge as the Church begins to ask why this is happening to the Church in Egypt? The Church is simply teaching people not to hate their enemies and to love others, yet are being victimized. Why are these Christians being robbed, beaten, and even killed? The idea of living in peace among Muslim neighbors is vanishing every day.”
Several incidents within the last three months that reflect how seriously the Church is suffering in Egypt. The village of Sultan has experienced five attacks since July, all because Christians began praying in an adjacent church building constructed over two years ago. Four Christians were injured in Demshaw because attackers did not want a church present. The list continues to go on. Every month, Muslim hardliners protest and burn Christian homes simply because Christians seek to pray their churches.
Mohammed, a Muslim engineer from Minya, explained to International Christian Concern (ICC) why there is such a strong reaction to the presence of churches. He said, “We do not consider the churches as God’s house, or a place where people worship God. We consider it as a place where polytheists perform prayer. They are not praying to the one God and we would not permit to have such a building among our villages.”
Another Muslim, Ibrahim, further explained, “The reason to raise a Muslim child is on the basis that the Christian person is the enemy and we must resist him to survive.”
Egypt has the largest concentration of Christians in the Middle East; however, official religious population demographics are considered a state secret. In Upper Egypt’s Minya Governorate, it is estimated that Christians represent nearly half of the population. Yet, the rights of Christians are not protected.
“Why are these Christians being robbed, beaten, and even killed? The idea of living in peace among Muslim neighbors is vanishing every day.”
“In Egypt’s constitution, it is said that Egypt is a Muslim country and the country’s religion is Islam,” explained Karim, a student at a Bible college. “With this item in the constitution, it gives the idea to radical Muslims that having a church is not part of the Islamic country and that Christians are not a part of the Islamic community. Therefore, they condone having night clubs but not having a church.”
Mariam, also a student, elaborated, “We are living in a no-law state and survival of the fittest. The Christians have great naiveté so the state treats them as slaves. That’s easy to make them waive their rights. Consequently, the government does not work hard to issue them official papers for building churches.”
The issue goes deeper. It’s not just about Christians praying in churches, but also an underlying fear that the Church may grow. “The elder sheikhs fear that Muslims might convert to Christianity. In general, it is possible for Muslims to tend towards Christians or Christianity. So they resist building any church.”
This tension is visible within the halls of Egypt’s government. In order to maintain Egypt’s Islamic identity, few Christians are found. Yet, some Muslim leaders are sympathetic to the plight of Christians. One member of Parliament told ICC under the condition of anonymity, “Always the problems start when a church is being built. This shows the ideology and culture that reflect the extent of underdevelopment and ignorance in the villages.”
The member of Parliament continued, “Let the Christians build churches as they please! And when they feel freedom, they will build only what they need.”
Another national leader shared similar sentiments, “Sensitivity to building a church is difficult, although the Church is a fundamental supporter of instilling values and the principle of love and tolerance. I fear that all violence against children, and women, and adults leaves a spirit of hatred… We dream of a secure future where the community loves each other and shares in the joys and sorrows.”
For now, this is but a dream. A dream that gets battered with each new mob that attacks a church. A dream that is shattered each time the authorities are unable or unwilling to protect the rights and security of Christians.
For interviews with Claire Evans, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org