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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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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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    • Give thanks that members of a Pakistani Christian family who have been trapped in bonded labour for years have been rescued by Barnabas partners. The owner of the brick kiln where they worked had kept them enslaved by withholding their wages and forcing them to take out a loan from him. When they tried to leave, he made them return, and he beat, tortured and threatened to kill them. The father of the family died in 2013 as a result of illness and weakness. But earlier this year, his widow sought help from our partners, and they obtained a court order for the recovery of the family. Pray for the three members who have already been rescued as they recuperate at a safe house. Pray too for the efforts to secure the freedom of six others still held by the owner. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 7 hours ago

    • About 1,500 Christians staged a protest in Lahore, Pakistan in June 2014 over the grabbing of church-owned property by the government of Punjab. Over ten large properties, including a church, schools, hospitals and graveyards, have been taken. Christian leaders met with the Lahore District Coordination Officer on 15 June to demand the return of the latest school to be seized, but when they failed to get a positive response, Christian protestors took to the streets. Pray that the provincial government will respect the property rights of the churches. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Aug 2014 00:00

    • 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 Wed, Aug 2014 00:00

    • 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

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