Islamic State (IS) attacks have slowed in Muslim-majority Egypt, compared to a few years ago when terrible IS atrocities included suicide bombings at two churches on Palm Sunday 2017 that claimed at least 46 lives. In April 2020, the suspected mastermind behind the bombing of several churches in Egypt was captured by the Libyan National Army.
Egypt has remained under a state of emergency, and terrorism is still a threat to Christian targets. Security forces foiled an Easter terror plot in April 2020 in the El-Amiriya neighbourhood of Cairo, which has a significant Christian population and several church buildings. The Islamist terrorists planned the attack while the authorities’ attention was diverted into combatting coronavirus.
President al-Sisi has often condemned attacks on Christians and spoken supportively about the Christian community (about 10% of the Egyptian population). His government has continued to legalise churches and church-affiliated buildings, following its repeal of Ottoman-era restrictions in September 2016. The licensing process remains fairly slow, despite calls for the process to be expedited. In October 2020, the number of churches licensed stood at only 1,738, out of 3,730 that applied for approval. A number of churches were already licensed before the law was introduced. Until the licensing committee began work early in 2017, it was extremely difficult to obtain a licence. It is illegal to worship in an unlicensed church building.
Nevertheless, Christian communities regularly face pressure and hostility. Newly-registered churches are often targeted by Muslim mobs who still resent Christian places of worship and use the status change as a pretext for violence.
Christianity in Egypt dates back to the first century AD, and there has been a continuous Christian presence despite centuries of anti-Christian discrimination since the arrival of Islam.
Give thanks for President al-Sisi’s support of Christians and ask that all Egyptian Muslims will heed his call for tolerance. Pray that the church licensing work will speed up, allowing Christians to worship legally. Ask God to protect Christians from terrorist violence.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet