With the country of Egypt constantly moving in and out of the 24 hour news cycle, due to the political and cultural unrest that has taken place since the so-called “Arab Spring,” the state of the Christians in Egypt has been mostly overlooked. Occasionally one might hear of a church being burnt, or that Coptic leaders are in hiding, but most of the narrative is about the Muslim Brotherhood’s democratically elected leader trying to Islamicize the country, and the military establishment not agreeing and removing him from power. So what of the Christians?
First, it is important to remember how ancient Christianity in Egypt actually is. Most church traditions believe that St. Mark, the companion of St. Peter, was the first major missionary to Egypt, specifically to the city of Alexandria. As the Christian faith increased, it became the majority of the population sometime in the 200’s-300’s, especially in the cities. In other words, Egypt was evangelized in the apostolic age, likely with eye-witnesses to Christ himself involved, and was Christian for several hundred years. Only with the invasion of Islam did this change, and even then after about 200 years.
One of the five ancient patriarchates (regional centers of Christianity with administrative and dispute control) still exists in Alexandria (both for the Copts and the Greeks), and the birth of Christian monasticism took place in the Egyptian desert. Great fathers of the church such as Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, and Anthony the Great, all of which are honored throughout Christendom, worked in Christ’s service in Egypt. The native ethnic Egyptians, known as Copts, who rejected the fourth council (for a variety of reasons), have become an ethno-religious group of somewhere around 10 percent of the population. Of course Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and tiny amount of Evangelicals/Protestants are also present.
Since the removal of King Farouk in 1952, with the rise of Arab nationalism and a resurgent militant Islam, the Copts (and other Christian minorities) have been facing increasing marginalization, violence, and other forms of persecution. Because the Christians are seen (sometimes accurately) to support the secularist military (for good reason as you will see), and because militant Islam has always been antagonistic to historic Christianity, the Christians are now the scapegoats for the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups. Jihad has been called against them in some cases. Here are some examples of what has been going on:
Coptic Christian Shot Dead in Egypt “A Coptic Christian girl walking home from a Bible class at her church was shot and killed last week in Cairo by an unidentified gunman…”
40 Churches Burned, Looted, or Destroyed in Egypt “40 churches – 10 Catholic and 30 Orthodox, Protestant and Greek-Orthodox – have been looted or burned, if not totally destroyed.”
Stop the Persecution, by Michael Coren (Toronto Sun) “You see, Christianity pre-dates Islam by 600 years, and Egypt was a majority Christian country long before Islam existed. The attack on the church was a clear statement to the 15% of Egyptians who refuse to abandon Christ. “You do not belong, you never existed.”
Attacks in Egypt on Christian Churches and Business (Washington Post, pictures)
3 Nuns Paraded like ‘Prisoners of War;’ 2 Christians Killed; 58 Churches, Properties Attacked in Egypt “Islamists burned down a Christian school, paraded three nuns on the streets like “prisoners of war,” and sexually abused two other female staff even as at least 58 attacks on Christians and their property were reported across Egypt over the last four days. At least two Christians have died in the attacks.”
So those of you who are Christians, pray for your brothers and sisters in Egypt. Spread this news around, so that it cannot be ignored. Remember the heritage of those who have gone before you from the ancient church in North Africa, and maybe read some Athanasius! Another course of action may be to contact your governmental representatives, as this “Breakpoint” article recommends, to increase pressure on those who are ignoring this.
Kyrie Eleison. Christus Regnat