Egypt’s Endangered Christians
This report finds that the religious freedom of Egypt’s 6 to 10 million (in 1999) strong Coptic Christian community, while generally able to practice its religion, is threatened in varying degrees by terrorism from extreme Islamic groups, by the abusive practices of local police and security forces, and by discriminatory and restrictive Egyptian Government policies.
The cumulative effect of these threats creates an atmosphere of persecution and raises fears that during the 21st century the Copts may have a vastly diminished presence in their homeland. Each year thousands of Copts convert to Islam, many under pressure, and Christians have an emigration rate three to four times that of Muslims. Coptic church sources estimate that over a million Copts have left Egypt in the past thirty years. Even emigration motivated by the desire for greater economic opportunity or democratic freedoms is partially due to underlying religious concerns. Like the Egyptian Jewish community before them, Egyptian Christians are endangered by pressures for a further Islamization of Egypt in which they will be afforded little space.
Since Egypt is the major intellectual and cultural center in the Arab Islamic world, the fate of the Copts, by far the largest Christian community in the Middle East, is an indicator of the future of other religious minorities in the region. As the second largest recipient of U.S. aid, Egypt’s treatment of the Copts holds interest for Americans of all religious backgrounds.
To download the full report: Egypt report 1999