As Coptic Christians in Egypt gathered for Christmas Eve Services on December 24, 2017, inside of Prince Tawadros church in Giza; they were met by large crowds of demonstrators, who began storming the church building. This took place outside of Cairo, following Friday’s prayers in local mosques. The church was ransacked and Christians were assaulted.
Egypt is a majority Muslim country, — the Islamic Republic of Egypt. According to Operation World, of the 84 million Egyptians living in Egypt, 86 percent are Muslim and 12 percent Christians.
The Coptic Church was founded by the Apostle, Mark of the New Testament. Mark is said to have planted the first Christian church in Egypt. He would later die a martyr’s death in the streets of Alexandria.
Today the Coptic Church is the largest body of Christians in the Middle East. Egypt is also home to the largest Christian church in the Middle East, Kasr El Dobara, Evangelical Church, with 7,000 worshipers each week. Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and sits strategically bordering; Israel, Sudan, and Libya.
Egypt is also home to Al-Azhar University, the most prestigious Sunni Islamic university in the Arab world. The University was founded in 970 AD as the center for Islamic study. Egypt has been called the “seat” of Islamic education. Cairo is renowned for being the city of a thousand minarets — for the many mosques that fill the large metropolitan city.
Islam is the state religion and the principles of Sharia (Islamic law) are the primary sources of legislation. According to the US State Department; ” Article 46 of the constitution provides for freedom of belief and the practice of religious rites, although, in practice, the government places restrictions on these rights.”
One’s religion must be displayed on all state issued identification. Names dictate the religion of people too, e.g. Mohammad is a common Muslim name and Samuel would be a common Christian name. Doors are opened and closed to Egyptians in the work place, educational institutions, marriage, and more; dependent on one’s official religion.
Many different factions have fought to gain power in Egypt throughout her history; a most recent example would be the “Arab Spring” of 2010, the Egyptian revolution of 2011, and the subsequent overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood president, by Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Egypt plays a significant role in the Bible and the spread of the good news! The place that fed Jacob’s family in times of famine — today, supplies spiritual bread to the people. The River Nile that hid the baby Moses and swept him into the arms of a princess, — fulfilling his destiny to free God’s people. A place of refuge, rest, and safety, to the holy family — protecting Jesus from the brutality of King Herod.
It’s no wonder evil factions seek to inflict violence on the “people of the cross.” I am reminded of a quote from C.S. Lewis:
“There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.”
Today, December 29, 2017 another attack was perpetrated against the Christian population in Egypt when a gunman opened fire on a Coptic Church, killing nine people, including two police officers. The Islamic State, IS, has claimed responsibility for today’s attack. In recent years attacks on Christians by extremist have seen an increase, with the Islamic State calling Egyptian’s Christians, “their favorite prey.” Do not be fooled….while it is true that IS has been pushed from their “strong holds” they are alive and well and their objective is the same. However, they are not the only extremist group with the same ideology, there are many just like them. Bearing different names, and adhering to similar evil objectives. Our war isn’t against flesh and blood but, principalities.
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Eph. 6:12 NLT
There are many attacks and threats the Egyptian Christians suffers that never make the news. Earlier today AH spoke with lead pastors in Egypt. One pastor who is part of our training school shared with us how his church was under heavy shooting recently. The church was empty at the time but, the armed guard assigned at the entrance of the church was shot and killed. Pray for the family of the slain guard. May they encounter the love and comfort of Jesus.
Another pastor who works in the training school is receiving threats from radicals. He shared with us what was written in a recent threat: “we are coming to you just wait for us…” Pray for the protection of this pastor and his family.
Other ways of persecution come in the form of kidnapping of family members like that of another brother in Egypt. His sister was recently kidnapped and a large ransom demanded for her return. The brother was able to secure her release and move her to a safe place. Since that time he and his family have been continually threatened. Pray for the protection of this brother and his family.
Pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt as we near New Year’s and the Coptic Christian Christmas Celebration on January 7th. These holidays often come with increased violence against Believers. Security is heightened in Egypt for Christians.
Egyptian Christians are strong and we’ve been told the flames of persecution have been used by God to unite the church in Egypt. They need our prayers to remain strong and united.
Pray for their safety and protection – But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one Thessalonians 3:3
Pray for their persecutors – “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:44
Pray for their leaders – The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases. Proverbs 21:1
Pray for Egypt – whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.” Isaiah 19:25