Christians are being persecuted more than ever before in Egypt.
The systematic persecution of christians is widening and living as a Christian in Egypt is becoming harder than ever before. The government has very authoritarian views on Christianity, even though Egypt is supposedly a country that has religious freedom but the reality is far from it. Christians are excluded members of society facing constant discrimination in daily life it has been pointed out that Christians are barred from holdings jobs and positions in Egyptian public institutions or prominent private academies. Christians have a hard time finding a job, and many of those that live in rural areas travel to the north of Egypt for work.
The government requires all churches to register, this started in 2016 when a law was passed by the government. This requirement was thought to help Christian communities build new churches but the reality is that such applications takes a very long time and faces systematic discrimination from authorities and only few churches has been build and in rural areas the threat is that applications are denied immediately upon submission due to religious discrimination. In cases where the application has been approved for a new church, Christians face other challenges such as civil objection and threats from the public. In 2018, the U.S. State Department reported that “a group of Muslim villagers hurled stones and bricks, breaking the windows of a building used as a church.
The government requires all citizens religious affiliation to be listed on their ID card. The fact that a person’s religion is listed on their id means that it is part of their identity and when presenting the id card the person could be subject to discrimination based on what their id states even when the information is no longer correct. The reason for this requirement is so that authorities can then dictate what Islamic laws can be applied to the person on marriage, inheritance or divorce. If someone converts from Islam to Christianity, it is difficult to reflect that change in religious designation on an ID card. According to Open Doors USA’s World Watch Research, if a married couple converts from Islam to Christianity, by law their marriage is declared void and their children illegitimate. “The law states individuals may change their religion,” says a report on Egypt by the U.S. State Department. “However, the government recognizes conversion to Islam, but generally not from Islam to any other religion.”
The threat to Christians from extremists is on the rise, including attacks on weekly basis and there are increasing numbers of terrorist attacks. The presence of Islamic extremists in Egypt has increased dramatically since the rise of ISIS in 2014. Extremist groups operate within both rural villages, particularly in Upper Egypt, and in large cities, like Alexandria. In villages, Islamic extremism has inspired local violence against Christians from kidnappings, to church vandalism, to violent mobs and coordinated attacks. In the cities, churches have been struck by shootings and suicide bombers, often in the middle of services. ISIS and Salafist jihadists have explicitly targeted Christians. In a video claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing, ISIS labeled Christians in Egypt ‘our first target and favourite prey.’ Violent attacks are not limited to rural areas alone. During Palm Sunday services in 2017 when two Coptic Orthodox churches were hit by suicide bombers. At St. George’s Church in Tanta, the bombing killed 27 people and injured 78. At St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, the second bomb killed 17 people and injured 48 more. Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II was in St. Mark’s cathedral at the time of the bombing and was unhurt. ISIS claimed the St. Mark’s bombing was an assassination attempt on Pope Tawadros II. This was not the first threat against his life by Islamic extremists.