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Egypt

The toppling of the Islamist president Mohammed Morsi on 3 July 2013 after a popular uprising raised hopes that the condition of Christians in Egypt might improve. In the short term, however, it was the trigger for a furious backlash against them by angry Islamists. At the height of the reprisals in mid-August, at least 16 Christians were killed and some 60 church buildings destroyed, as well as countless Christian homes and businesses. In the Islamist stronghold of Minya, Christian properties were marked for destruction with a black X.

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Mariam Ashraf Messeiha (8) was killed in a drive-by attack on a Christian wedding in 2013
Source: Morning Star News

Sporadic attacks have continued since. In October four Christians, including two children, were killed in Cairo in a drive-by shooting that targeted wedding guests. Many Christians have been kidnapped for ransom and others forced to pay protection money to Islamists in the form of jizya, the traditional Islamic tax on Christians and Jews.

But the churches continue to hope for better times ahead. A new constitution was approved in a referendum in January 2014; it replaces the Islamist-sponsored code that was pushed through by Morsi at the end of 2012 and strengthens rights and freedoms. It enshrines the equality of all citizens and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, sex, race and other factors. Christians and other minorities are granted greater political representation.

Freedom of belief is declared “absolute”, while freedom to practise religion and establish places of worship is granted to Christians (and Jews) as well as Muslims. The constitution requires Parliament to issue a law that would relax the longstanding restrictions on the building and renovation of churches so as to allow Christians to worship freely.

It is a remarkable turnaround after Islamists appeared to be consolidating their grip on power following the Arab Spring of 2011, and the country’s Christian minority were facing the grim prospect of life in an Islamic state. There was a surge of violent attacks against them, and an escalation in the number of Christian women being kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married against their will to a Muslim man. The number of blasphemy cases, in which some Christians were jailed for allegedly insulting Islam, also increased. The regime was failing to offer them adequate protection or bring their assailants to justice.

Egyptian Christians have suffered centuries of discrimination, and most of the wealthier Christians have left the country in the last few decades. Those Christians who remain largely live in extreme poverty. Converts from Islam are acutely vulnerable.

The Church in Egypt is one of the oldest in the world. Egypt’s former capital Alexandria was one of the great Christian centres until 640 AD, when the country was invaded by Muslim Arabs. Today there are an estimated eight to ten million Christians; around 90% of the population are Muslims.

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    • Praise God that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has instructed the government to take specific steps to protect religious minorities from violence and intolerance. The ruling was issued partly in response to the deadly attack on All Saints Church in Peshawar in September 2013, which claimed over 100 lives. The court ordered the formation of a National Council for Minority Rights, a special police force to protect places of worship, and a taskforce to develop strategies to counter intolerance, along with further corrective measures. Campaigners for the rights of Christians in Pakistan welcomed the moves but expressed reservations about whether they would be implemented. Pray that the measures will achieve a tangible improvement in the condition of the country’s Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 21 hours ago

    • Loving Father, we cry out to You for the loved ones of ten Egyptian Christians who were murdered in Libya in February and March this year. We ask that You will bring your healing and peace to their families and friends and comfort their congregations in their loss. We pray for protection for Egyptian and other expatriate Christians in Libya and ask that their neighbours will not yield to requests by the militants to hand them over and get a reward in return. We pray that further Islamist attacks against Christians will be prevented and that the Libyan authorities will establish a greater measure of control over the country. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Aug 2014 00:00

    • Pray for Egyptian Christians who are leaving Libya in the face of growing violence against them. Many have gone there seeking work, but following the recent spate of killings, they are now fleeing. An Egyptian church leader has said that attacks and threats against Christians in the region are an attempt at “genocide”. Pray that what seems to be a targeted Islamist campaign to wipe Christians out of Libya will not succeed. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Aug 2014 00:00

    • A young Christian woman in Somalia was killed by a group of armed men who broke into her house in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, earlier this year. The assailants dragged her outside and shot at neighbours who tried to rescue her. Her parents were present when the attack took place. The Islamist group al-Shabaab has killed dozens of Christians since 2008, when it seized control of large parts of the country, and although it has now been driven from its strongholds, its deadly hostility to Christians is unrelenting. Pray for other Christian converts in Somalia as they face terror on every side (Psalm 31:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Aug 2014 00:00

    • “We know these two people are Christians who recently came back from Kenya. We want to wipe out any underground Christian living inside of mujahidin area.” The words of an al-Shabaab militant in Somalia were chillingly fulfilled soon afterwards when Sadia Ali Omar (41) and Osman Mohamoud Moge (35), two Christian converts from Islam, were publicly beheaded in Barawa on 4 March. Al-Shabaab became suspicious of them because of their irregular attendance at the mosque for Friday prayers. Pray for Sadia’s two daughters, aged 8 and 15, who were forced to watch the gruesome spectacle; the younger girl cried out for someone to save her mother. A family friend has helped them relocate to a different area; ask that God’s peace may guard their hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7) after this traumatic experience. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Aug 2014 00:00

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