Sunni Muslims account for 90 percent of Egypt’s total population, with Christians making up 9 percent and the remainder consisting of religious minorities such as Baha’is, Shiite and Sufi Muslims. Islam was declared the state religion in 1980, although Article 46 of the constitution declares that the state shall not interfere in or disrupt the religious beliefs of their people, essentially granting religious freedom. In 2006, former President Mubarak amended the constitution to forbid the formation of political movements on the basis of religion alone, in order to prevent what was described as “religious terrorism.”
Despite the significant number of Coptic Christians in Egypt, there have been numerous reports of persecution against them in recent years. In the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution, violence against Christians in the country increased dramatically, with attacks on several neighbourhoods in the city of Soul (18 miles from Cairo) on 5 March 2011, during which 4,000 assailants assaulted and pillaged numerous Christian homes, as well as burnt down a local Coptic church. Tensions arising from the incident resulted in the deaths of 13 and the injuries of 140 people the following week.
In May 2011, the St. Mary and St. Abraham Church in Cairo was prevented from opening when over 3,000 local people surrounded it, pelting it with stones and refusing to grant access until the dome and cross from the church had been removed. The church had been closed by the government two years before as a result of similar violence, causing much structural damage to the church.
New believers are not allowed to change their religious status on their state-issued identity cards despite security risks, and repairs and renovations to churches are not permitted without sufficient government authorisation, which is difficult to obtain.
Famed for its rich history of developed early civilizations, namely the Ancient Egyptians, Egypt is a country known for the only remaining monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the pyramids of Giza. A land of contrast, Egypt is made up of the harsh Saharan and Libyan deserts, as well as the fertile lands of the Nile River valleys.
Egypt was ruled by numerous empires, including the Ancient Egyptians, the Romans and the Ottoman Turks, gaining independence from England in 1922 under King Farouk. A military coup in 1953 removed the monarchy from power, making Egypt a Republic.
Egypt has, for many years, been under heavy scrutiny by Amnesty International and the UN High Commission for human rights abuses, owing to reports of arbitrary detentions, sentences without trials before military courts, as well as widespread torture as a method of suppressing political opposition.
Egypt also faces problems with illicit drug trafficking, being the region’s largest supplier of cannabis, heroin, and opium to Europe.
The United Nations Literacy for Life report of 2006 records the literacy rate among Egyptian adults as being 56 percent of the population.
- Pray for greater tolerance and understanding of the beliefs of the Christians in Egypt by the state and other religions.
- Pray that the families of victims lost to the violence will find peace and not seek vengeance.
- Pray for an end to the civil unrest and violence to prevent further damage and losses.