With 107 million people, Egypt is the largest country in the Middle East and the third-largest in Africa. Egyptian empires have been rising and falling since more than 3000 years before Christ, and Egypt today is a leader politically and culturally across the Middle East and in Africa. Egypt has also been a center for Christianity since the early Church in the 1st Century. Although Christians are only about a tenth of modern Egypt’s population, they are by far the largest Christian community in the Middle East.
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 has been ruled by then General and now President Abdul Fattah Said
al-Sisi since the July 3, 2013 coup. The economy is in trouble, and in March 2022 Egypt applied to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance. Egypt has major human rights problems. For example, human rights groups and international observers maintain that the Egyptian government is detaining or imprisoning between 20,000 and 60,000 persons solely or chiefly because of their political beliefs or activities. In March 2021, 32 states condemned human rights violations in Egypt at the UN Human Rights Council. There is also an ongoing conflict in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
CMEP is very concerned about discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities in Egypt. CMEP is committed to the building of inclusive societies based on citizenship rights where persons of all religions can live in harmony and peace.
Religious freedom conditions in Egypt are trending tentatively in a positive direction. The country has seen a decrease in radical Islamist violence and anti-Christian mob attacks, some progress in implementing the registration process for unlicensed churches and related buildings, and the launch of a government program to address religious intolerance in rural areas. However, systematic and ongoing religious inequalities remain affixed in the Egyptian state and society, and various forms of religious bigotry and discrimination continue to plague the country’s Coptic Christians and other religious minorities. In April 2022, a Coptic priest was killed in Alexandria. In January 2022 nine Copts were arrested for protesting the lack of permits to rebuild their churches.
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.
Egypt has diplomatic relations with both Palestine and Israel and has often been a key intermediary in diplomatic efforts to gain peace between them. Egypt is not a member of the Abraham Accords, but it has hosted meetings that bring together leaders from Israel and countries in the Arab world such as the March 2022 Egypt-Israel-UAE summit. Egypt is a Major Non-NATO Ally of the U.S. for defense trade and security cooperation.
Facts at a Glance
President: Abdul Fattah Said al-Sisi
Population: 107,770,524 (2022 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)
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.
Human Rights Issues
- 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Egypt, US Department of State, Mar 2022. The latest of the State Department’s comprehensive annual report on human rights.2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Egypt, US Department of State, Mar 2022. The latest of the State Department’s comprehensive annual report on human rights.
- National Human Rights Strategy, Supreme Standing Committee for Human Rights, 2021. The Egyptian Government’s position on human rights in Egypt.
- Amnesty International Report 2021/22 – Egypt 2021, Amnesty International, Apr 2022. Summary analysis on many human rights issues in Egypt, including three paragraphs on freedom of religion and belief there.
- World Report 2021 – Egypt section, Human Rights Watch, Mar 2022. Annual HRW compendium on Egypt, useful for its links on individual events and items as well as being a summary of the year.
- Biden Administration’s Decision to Reprogram Military Aid to Egypt Is Necessary but Insufficient, Joint Statement of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, and 17 other Egyptian and international human rights organizations, Feb 2022. The case being made by those who oppose US military aid to Egypt.
- Egyptian authorities must repeal the outrageous NGO law, a joint public letter from the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Amnesty International, and 16 other Egyptian and international human rights organizations, Jan 2022. The position of those opposing Egypt’s new (2019) NGO Law.
- Egypt Is the Wrong Choice to Host the Next Climate Summit, Working Group on Egypt: Nov 2021. Analysis of the impact on human rights of Egypt hosting the 2022 UN global climate summit.
- IMF Should Prioritize Social Protection in Egypt Loan Talks, Joint Statement of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Human Rights Watch, and five other human rights organizations, Apr 2022. Analysis of the intersection of human rights and the economy in Egypt.
- Christian Religious Liberty in Egypt, Do Justice, May 16, 2022.
- 2022 USCIRF Annual Report Egypt Chapter – Recommended for Special Watch List, US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF – an agency of the US government), Apr 2022. The US government’s public position on religious freedom in Egypt, and includes a section on US policy.
- Egypt’s Religious Minorities: The Legal Framework Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Jan 2022
- 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom: Egypt, State Department, May 2021. The most recent volume of the State Department’s lengthy annual analysis of religious freedom issues in foreign countries.
- What does persecution look like in Egypt?, Open Doors USA watch list, 2022
- TIMEP Brief: Church Construction Law, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Jul 2019.
- Months later, nine Egyptian Christians still detained after protests to rebuild church, Catholic News Agency, Apr 2022. Concerning the jailing since Jan 2022 of Christians for protesting against not receiving a permit to rebuild their church.
Egypt’s Role in Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
- Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations, Congressional Research Service, Sep 2021. A comprehensive analysis of Egypt’s part in Middle East peacemaking and the impact on US policy toward Egypt.
- Explaining Egypt’s Role during the Gaza War, Arab Center Washington DC, Jun 2021. Analyzing Egypt’s pivotal mediation ending the 2021 Israel-Gaza war in the context of Egypt’s historical role in Arab-Israeli negotiations.
- Bennett meets Sisi on first Egypt visit by Israeli PM in decade, France24, Sep 2021. A general look at modern relations between Egypt and Israel.
- Israel-Egypt Relations: Overview of Bilateral Cooperation, Jewish Virtual Library, May 2022. A much more comprehensive analysis (and very much an Israeli perspective) on Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since 1979, especially current affairs.
- How Egypt benefits from gas agreement with Israel, Al-Monitor, Feb 2021
- Movement of people via Rafah Crossing, Gisha, Jun 2021. How the crossing between Gaza and Egypt works.
Counter-terrorism in Egypt
- Egypt’s Counterinsurgency Success in Sinai, Washington Institute, Dec 2021. Comprehensive analysis and history of ISIS Wilayat Sinai.
- President Sisi extends security measures in Sinai for 6 more months, Egypt Today, Mar 2022.
- Christians Flee North Sinai Violence, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Mar 2017. Analysis of the start of ISIS Wilayat Sinai’s spread of terrorism outside Sinai in Egypt.
- Egypt detains ex-editor of Al-Ahram newspaper on terrorism charges, Middle East Monitor, Jul 2021.
- Attacks raise fears of Islamic State resurgence in Sinai, Al-Monitor, Feb 2022.