Two articles recently published get to the heart of the matter of Christian persecution in Egypt. The first, published by Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute, offers a firsthand account of a visit he made to a Jewish synagogue in Egypt. What does a visit to a Jewish synagogue have to do with Christianity in Egypt? Quite a bit, actually.
In living memory there were nearly 100,000 Jews in Egypt. Just weeks ago there were 15 left in all the country: 12 in Cairo, three in Alexandria. All were aged, and only one was a man.
Another of the 15 has died so that there are now 14 Jews left. There are approximately 86 million people in Egypt, but only 14 Jews. There are nearly twice as many members of Egypt’s national soccer team as there are Jews in the country.
Marshall’s trip to the synagogue was to meet with the leader of Egypt’s Jews, Magda Haroun. Magda Haroun has no hope of a returning population of Jews to the country. Her efforts now are targeted upon the simple hope of establishing a museum of Jewish history. Conceding the fact that Jews will soon be absent from Egypt’s population, Magda hopes that at least Jews might live in Egypt’s history. As Marshall notes,
She is driven by the commitment and hope that people will not be able to forget that “there were once Jews in Egypt.”
Magda had occasion recently to meet Pope Tawadros, the head of the Coptic Church in Egypt. She had a simple, sober message for him: “Do not let your people leave. Do all that you can so that you do not become as we are…”
Of course, Pope Tawadros shares her desire to preserve a Christian witness in Egypt. But that is no small task. There is a second article recently published which offers a glimpse into the difficulty of preserving Christianity in Egypt.
Raymond Ibrahim at PJ Media chronicles a recent re-invigoration of an old practice: “milking Christians.” According to Ibrahim, Muslims in Egypt are purposefully threatening and extorting money and possessions from Christians—even those living in remote, desert monasteries. Ibrahim says,
In other words, Egypt’s Christians are increasingly being seen and treated, in the words of some early caliphs, as “milk camels” to be milked dry of their money and possessions. (Crucified Again, p. 200)
In addition to being “milked,” Christians are actually being attacked, too. Last summer, more than 40 church buildings were completely destroyed in a matter of hours. Over a three day period last August, about 150 church buildings were attacked, many of them destroyed.
Magda’s counsel to Pope Tawadros is more easily understood than executed. Christians feel isolated and alone in Egypt. Secular media sources—if they cover the plight of Christians at all—cover the atrocities under the obscure headline of “sectarian violence” continuing in the country. Referring to the persecution of Christians in Egypt as sectarian violence is like calling armed robbery a financial transaction. The violence works one way: Christians—like Jews before them—are being targeted for extinction in Egypt. In the last three years, probably 150,000 Christians have taken refuge out of Egypt.
If Christians are to remain in Egypt, then they will surely need the help of Christians from the U.S. and around the world. Undoubtedly, Christ has not abandoned His flock in Egypt. Has Christ not promised always to be present with His followers (Matthew 28:20)? Is there no God in Egypt? Yes, Jesus Christ is Lord in Egypt, and He will build His church there. Will we be a part of His work? Twice the Lord has called His son out of Egypt. There is no reason to think the Son will ever leave Egypt again. God’s Son has now been raised once for all as the sovereign Lord of Egypt and the earth.
May the Lord raise up His church from the devastated ruins of ancient Egypt, and may He grant us a heart to pray for and serve our suffering brothers and sisters there.