The Voice of the Martyrs is focusing on the plight of persecuted Christians in Egypt during the month of August in our monthly newsletter. We have been involved in serving our Egyptian brothers and sisters for a number of years and urge you to consider how you can practically stand together with them in their afflictions this month.
In the early centuries after Christ, Egypt was predominantly Christian and a major centre for Christian scholarship. However, from the 7th century onwards with the initial Islamic invasion in 639 AD, Muslim rule and religion have predominated this ancient land. In 969, the country was conquered by Jawhar al-Siqilli and Cairo was founded as the new capital. Egypt's Coptic Christian church never disappeared, however, despite centuries of persecution and discrimination. Today, Egypt has the Middle East's largest Christian community. Some government figures have suggested that Christians make up twelve percent of the country’s population, with Christians claiming up to twenty percent. It is probably impossible to know for sure.
Despite the prominent Christian community, the country's constitution gives preference to Muslims and Christians are treated as second-class citizens, denied political representation, and often discriminated against in education and employment. While the constitution allows for freedom of conversion, Muslims converting to Christianity have often been unable to change their religion or their name on their identification cards. Without the freedom to make this change, Christian women remain designated as Muslims and are unable to marry Christian men. Children of those designated Muslim (even if they are, in fact, Christian) are educated as Muslims and those with Islamic names are routinely turned away from entering churches by police. Consequently, Christians have frequently had false ID cards produced, only to face prosecution for falsifying government documents. However, Christians who convert to Islam face no difficulty in changing their ID cards.
Egyptian Christians face ongoing challenges in building and repairing church buildings. The government requires permits for such construction but frequently refuses to grant them to churches. When applications are approved, they are often delayed by local authorities or security officials.
Another serious problem facing Christians in Egypt is the kidnapping, and often the rape, of Christian girls who are often then forced to marry a Muslim (even their attacker).
There have been a few hopeful decisions made by the Egyptian government. Some educational materials are now recognizing the Coptic contribution to Egyptian society. As well, the Coptic Christmas was officially recognized as an official national holiday in January 2003 (the Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7). Despite these moves, Egypt has a long way to go before it can be recognized as a religiously free nation.
How can you remember (Hebrews 13:3) your Christian sisters and brothers in Egypt?
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada recently released a report entitled "Religious Freedom in Egypt: The Case of the Christian Minority. To download this report, click here.
In June 2000, Shaiboub Arsal was given a 15 year hard labour term. He has been falsely charged with two murders that took place during 1998 violence which targeted El-Kosheh’s Coptic Christian population. You can write a letter of encouragement to Shaiboub, care of his local bishop, at the following address:
c/o Bishop Wissa Diocese of Baliana
Write the Egyptian embassy in Ottawa urging the removal of religious affiliation from Egyptian passports, government identification cards and birth certificates. In Egypt, citizens are required to carry their personal ID cards at all times. Without it, one has no access to basic services. Believers who try to change their card undergo severe persecution, such as Mohammed Hegazy. Please write to:
His Excellency Shamel Elsayed Nasser
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
454 Laurier Avenue East
Ottawa, ON K1N 6R3
The Voice of the Martyrs supports safe houses in Egypt where Muslim converts in harm’s way can safely rebuild their lives and study God’s Word. Your gifts to VOMC’s Underground Church Fund help provide the means for this vital ministry. We are also involved in advocacy work to raise awareness of the persecution in Egypt and urge Canadian government officials to pressure their Egyptian counterparts to ensure greater religious freedom for Egypt’s Christians. We are grateful for your support of our ministry which allows us to do this.
The Voice of the Martyrs
P.O. Box 117, Port Credit
Do you know Arabic-speaking Muslims in your neighbourhood with whom you
would like to share the Good News? The Voice of the Martyrs is offering to provide you with up to five free copies of the evangelistic tool, He Lived Among Us, in Arabic. This vividly illustrated comic book tells the life of Jesus and presents the gospel simply and effectively. We also have a number of copies of Sons of Ishmael, a small book in Arabic with the testimonies of Muslims who have come to faith in Jesus. Many have heard the Good News worldwide through these incredible tools. Call us today at 1.888.298.6423 to receive up to five copies of one or both of these resources at no cost. Of course, a donation to help with shipping costs would be appreciated.