Egypt has a rich history of religious diversity from the Jewish scholars of ancient Alexandria, to the pioneering Coptic Christian monks of the Middle Ages, to the Islamic legal experts at Cairo’s al-Azhar University today. However, since the beginning of Arab Spring in 2011, Egypt’s religious diversity has increasingly come under pressure.
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) recognizes the religious importance of the Middle East to Jews, Christians, and Muslims; and works to protect religious freedom, as well as supporting measures to ensure the viability of the historic Christian community.
Egypt’s historic relationship with both Israel and the Palestinians makes this nation a key player in the peace process. Under Egypt’s first president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt became the leading voice in the call for Arab unity against Israel. However, after suffering multiple defeats in the Six Day War (1967) and 1973 War, Egypt has since led the way toward Arab recognition of Israel following the Camp David Accords in 1978. Under Egypt’s current president, Abdul Fattah Said al-Sisi, Egypt looks to re-assume its role as regional peace broker after the tumult of the Arab Spring.
CMEP believes that working toward a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not only serve the cause of peace and justice in the Holy Land but also promote peace in the Middle East region in general, including Egypt.
CMEP is very concerned about the rise of extremism that targets Christians and religious minorities in Egypt. CMEP is committed to the building of inclusive societies based on citizenship rights where persons of all religions can live together in harmony and peace.
Facts at a Glance
President: Abdul Fattah Said al-Sisi
Population: 97,041,072 (2017 est.)
Languages: Arabic 99.6%, other 0.4% (2017 est.)
Religions: Islam 90%, Christianity 10% (2017 est.)
Christian Community: 8.9 million (2017 est.) including Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Maronite Catholic, Anglican, and Evangelical Christians
Refugee Population: 210,865 (2016)
2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Egypt, US Department of State, 2019
World Report 2020: Egypt, Human Rights Watch, 2020
To Protect Religious Freedom in Egypt, Ease Authoritarian Restrictions, Freedom House, 2019
Egypt 2017 Human Rights Report, US Department of State, 2017
NGO Law in Egypt, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2017
Egypt – Open Doors USA, Open Doors, 2019
USCIRF–RECOMMENDED FOR SPECIAL WATCH LIST, USCIRF, 2020
2019 Report on International Religious Freedom: Egypt, State Dept., 2019
The Reality of Church Construction in Egypt, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, June 2019
Copts, Church, and State: Egypt’s Christians Frustrated with Lack of Protection, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Feb 2019
Guide: Christians in the Middle East, BBC, 2011
The Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, Encyclopedia Coptica
The Copts and Arab Spring, New York Times, 2011
Egypt 2017 International Religious Freedom Report, US Department of State, 2017
Minority Profile: Egypt’s Christians, Eshhad, 2015
Report: Mossad chief secretly visits Egypt to discuss annexation, Middle East Monitor, June 2020
Report: Mossad chief met with Egyptian officials over sovereignty bid, Israel Hayom, May 2020
Overview of Israel-Egypt Cooperation, Jewish Virtual Library
A New Role for Egypt: Sisi’s Government and the Arab Israeli Conflict, Harvard International Review, 2015
Movement of People via Rafah Crossing, Gisha, 2018
This timeline from Jerusalem Post tracks the deterioration of security in the Sinai Peninsula following Arab Spring. Since then Sinai has become a stronghold for an affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Many of the terrorist attacks in Sinai have been against Christian Egyptians. Read More
Egypt Security Watch: Five Years of Egypt’s War on Terror [Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, 2018]
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy has analyzed the efforts that Egypt’s government has taken to combat terrorism since 2013. “Our findings today indicate that, while the number of attacks reported each day have abated somewhat, Egypt is in a similar place as it was when the war on terror was declared. Those governing Egypt and its security bodies have failed to adapt tactics to evolving security threats; to develop a long-term, strategic counter-terror policy; or to carry out a holistic program to prevent radicalization that opens channels to peacefully express grievances, rather relying on collective punishment and politicized tactics. This approach leaves Egypt no closer to eradicating extremism, preventing future radicalization, or achieving long-term stability than at the start of the war on terror.” Read More
Hands Along the Nile does important work building relationships between Americans and Egyptians in order to raise the quality of life for the most under-served members of their society.
CMEP is very grateful for our partnerships. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our partners and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.