After decades of persecution ‘things are getting better’ for Egypt’s Christians

DESPITE the ongoing threat of extremist attacks in Egypt, the situation is improving for the country’s Christians according to a leading bishop. Speaking to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut, expressed his high hopes for Egypt’s Christians. He said: “We thank God that the situation is getting better. The president [el-Sisi] has goodwill towards the Christians. He is a president for all Egyptians.”

Bishop Kyrillos William

Still, the threat of extremist attacks persists, with Islamists bent on continuing to make Christians insecure about of their place in Egyptian society. He said: “Attacks perpetrated by Islamists happen from time-to-time. The goal is not only to attack Christians but also the Egyptian government.

Said the prelate: “They want to say to Christians, ‘the government cannot protect you. You should leave Egypt.’ They would like to establish an Islamic State but in Egypt it will never materialize. Egyptians are close – Christians and Muslims are too united for the extremists to cause problems.”

The bishop added: “There is a mentality that since 1952 has treated Christians as second-class citizens. Now, some change has happened and things are getting better. Building Churches is easier than before. We don’t have to wait years to get permission to have a church built.” According to Bishop William, this is a marked change – for more than 160 years, Christians had to get permission from Egypt’s head of state for new Church buildings.

Stil, Coptic Christian girls are still being abducted and forced to marry and convert to Islam, with some reports suggesting the police facilitate the kidnappings.The bishop said: “In areas where the Islamic organizations are strong they are happening but in our area it is not too much of a problem.”

World Watch Monitor interviewed a former member of an Islamist network who actively targeted Coptic girls before he left Islam. The kidnapper said: “A group of kidnappers meets in a mosque to discuss potential victims. They keep a close eye on Christian houses and monitor everything that’s going on. On that basis, they weave a spider’s web around the girls.”

Bishop William expressed gratitude for ACN and its benefactors, who provide funding for Mass stipends, training of seminarians, church restoration, and other important Church projects. He said: “We appreciate very much what ACN is doing in many countries to keep Christians in their homelands. We thank all benefactors for their help and donations to ACN so we can realize our dream of keeping Christians in the Middle East.”

—Fionn Shiner