Egypt (MNN) – In the days leading up to Ramadan, which began June 5, there has been a build-up of anti-Christian sentiment in Egypt.
Open Doors’ CEO and President David Curry says, “I’ve been in Egypt a couple of times and know a bit about what’s happening to the Christians there. It is a bit of a mixed bag in the sense that Christians, I think, still remember well what it was like to live under the Muslim Brotherhood. Which was very difficult…lot of restrictions, lack of freedom. So in light of that, I think Christians are still pretty optimistic within Egypt.”
However, just last week Curry reports there was a Christian grandmother who was stripped naked and paraded through the streets. A rumor had spread about her son possibly having an affair, so she was punished. “This sort of thing, which humiliates the woman, is exceptionally dangerous… highlights the fact that Christians are still considered second-class citizens there in Egypt,” Curry explains.
It also exposes the weak responses from the government in these situations. In this case, the government barely did anything to calm the mob’s negative response and it hasn’t taken much proactive action either. And regardless of the fact that Egypt embraces conservative Muslim traditions, there’s still the need for Christians to live with the freedom of religious expressions without fear of persecution.
However, there have been rumors of the terrorist group ISIS having a strong foothold in the country. Curry says, “What we know is that the government itself is trying to actively push out ISIS. They’re fighting against it, trying to camp down radical elements within the country. This government, itself, is a response to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was a very severe government.”
But Curry does say, despite this governments’ secular nature compared to the previous, ISIS does want the country. “Egypt has a massive population, as regards and related to other countries there in the Middle East. And it’s a very critical country because it has so many cultural imprints on the rest of the Arab world. So I think ISIS would like to get in-roads there,” Curry explained.
As a whole, Curry doesn’t believe the people of Egypt want another Islamic extremist regime ruling the country. But, the attacks in Egypt by ISIS have been stirring up dissension within communities. Especially during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, with violence and persecution towards Christians spiking.
Religious violence in Egypt varies depending on location. For example, Christians in Cairo experience a degree of freedom compared to Christians in rural areas. Why? Well, a big part is education. Literacy rates in rural villages tends to run low, therefor, Islamic mobs can make demands without locals being able to counter with what the Koran says. It makes fact checking a false option.
Open Doors supports Egyptian Christians by providing the tools they need to survive and thrive, which looks different in every community. But, despite persecution, the Egyptian Christian church has been growing. And at the moment, individuals in Egypt, and other parts of the Middle East, have been open to the Gospel and Jesus Christ.
And as the month of Ramadan continues, pray for Egyptian Christians’ safety and for the prevention of any possible mob violence. But also, pray that during this month, as Muslims seek to really know God, that they would come to know Christ and the love he has for them.
*Egypt is ranked at #22 on the World Watch List (WWL). The WWL, by Open Doors, is a ranking of the top 50 countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith.