|Arab Republic of Egypt|
Area 997,739 sq.km. Mostly desert, only 3% is arable land along the banks and delta of the Nile River and around the Western Desert oases.
In fertile areas, 2,230 people per sq.km!
Capital Cairo 16,000,000. Other major city: Alexandria 5,000,000. Urbanites 43%.
Arab 92%. Egyptian, speaking Arabic but descendants of the ancient Coptic-speaking people of Biblical times. Bedouin 1.4 mill.; Sudanese ca. 500,000.
Nubians 2.4%. Arabic-speaking 1.35m; Nobiin 230,000; Kenusi-Dongola 120,000.
Berber 2%. Mostly Arabic-speaking. Zenati 5,000 at the Siwa Oasis.
Gypsy 2%. Most now Arabic-speaking. Halebi 1,000,000; Ghagar 257,000.
Other 0.4%. Westerners 250,000; Beja 77,000; Turks 32,000; Armenians 14,000.
Refugees Black Sudanese may number 1.5m or more. Also Ethiopians, Palestinians, Eritreans, etc.
Literacy 61% (functional literacy is 35-40%). Official language Arabic. All languages 11. Languages with Scriptures 3Bi 1NT 2por.
Limited agricultural land being lost to expanding cities and high population density keep a third of the population below the poverty line. Vast new irrigation schemes in the Western Desert and Sinai are being developed. Liberalization of the economy in the 1990s has brought considerable advancement. Main source of income: tourism, oil, Suez Canal dues, US aid and remittances from expatriate Egyptians. HDI 0.616; 120th/174. Public debt 45% of GNP. Income/person $1,080 (4% of USA).
President Sadat's diplomacy (1970-81) won back control of the valuable Suez Canal and Sinai oilfields from Israel as an outcome of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The peace treaty with Israel led to political isolation from other Arab states for some years, but the continued failure to find a lasting solution to the Palestine issue has brought disillusionment. Extreme Islamist groups exploited economic problems to mount a terror campaign against the government, Christians and foreign tourists. Vigorous and harsh suppression between 1992 and 2000 marginalized and discredited the Islamist movements. The economic and political cost was high. Multi-party democratic government is more theoretical than real, but the country is relatively stable politically.
Islam is the state religion; until recently the large Christian minority was left in relative peace. Archaic discriminatory laws and the rise of Islamism has resulted in the authorities turning a blind eye to a culture of police brutality and to Islamist violence and terror against Christians. International pressure since 1998 has provoked governmental efforts to rebuild its image. Persecution Index 14th in the world.
The official figure for Christians is 6%, but Christians claim up to 20%. The truth is probably in between.
1 The Church has come through nearly 2,000 years of discrimination and times of severe persecution, yet has retained its strong spiritual character. It has earned its name as 'The Church of the Martyrs.' The last decade has been hard for Christians, but there is much life and vigour among both the Orthodox and Protestant churches.
1 For over 1,000 years Egypt was a majority-Christian country even after the Arab Muslim conquest in 640AD. Egypt gave to the Christian world some of its greatest theologians and the monastic movement. Coptic Christians are more authentic Egyptians than those who follow the religion of their Arab conquerors. Every effort has been made to expunge Egypt's great Christian heritage from the historic records, downplay the size of the Church and marginalize its contribution to society. Pray that in a rediscovery of this heritage many might turn to Christ.
2 'Islam is the solution' has been the popular slogan pushing for a more Islamic state as the answer to Egypt's economic and social problems. Acts of terrorism, economic sabotage and intolerance have brought discredit to Islam itself. Pray that many might investigate the claims of the gospel and the faith of their forefathers.
3 The government has to perform a balancing act between the vociferous and often violent Islamists, the silent majorities and minorities in Egypt, and criticisms from the outside world. Pray for fair and humane laws that are impartially applied by the courts and police for the good of the whole population.
c) The biblically-based renewal movement in the Coptic Church which has steadily gained momentum since 1930. It has a strong emphasis on Bible study and a warm personal faith and many have become fervent witnesses for the Lord. Pray for the growth and effectiveness of this movement of the Spirit.
5 The Protestant churches sprang from the Orthodox minority, and for some decades had not seen significant growth. This is changing: there has been a growing renewal movement since 1973 and many young people are now coming to the Lord and a new generation of bold leaders is emerging. Several Pentecostal and evangelical denominations are growing significantly. Pray that, despite the difficulties, Muslims may be reached and welcomed into the churches. Few Christians would risk witnessing to a Muslim because of the possible consequences. Many churches have extensive social and medical programmes to help the very poor.
6 Persecution of Christians steadily increased in intensity during the 1980s and '90s. Harassment, severe application of ancient discriminatory laws, destruction of churches and financial incentives for Christians to adopt Islam have all been extensively used to break the morale of Christians. In some areas, especially in Upper Egypt, Muslims have even sought to displace local Christian communities to 'purify' their society. Pray for:
a) Christians to stand firm in their faith and live exemplary lives before their oppressors and in the face of police brutality. In the last few years over 1,300 Christians have died at the hands of Islamists.
b) Christians who waver. It is reckoned that between 12,000 and 15,000 annually are coerced or enticed to become Muslims. There are cases of young girls being kidnapped, violated and forced to marry Muslims.
c) Muslim-background believers who are steadily increasing in number. Conversion is not illegal, but some are imprisoned for 'despising Islam' or 'inciting intercommunal strife'. Some have had to flee for their lives.
7 There is a dearth of volunteers for pastoral and missionary service. Many evangelical churches have no pastor. Pray for many to give themselves for the Lord's work. Pray also for those in theological training at the Coptic Evangelical Church Seminary (which had 40 students preparing for the ministry in 1999), the AoG and the Free Methodist Bible schools.
c) The Nubians of Upper Egypt. For centuries a Christian kingdom, but eventually under pressure, Nubians became Muslim in the 17th Century. Today there are only a handful of Christians, but Nubians are fairly open to the gospel. Only a minority still speak the two main Nubian dialects, but they are culturally distinct. Pray for a re-discovery of their Christian roots, and for many to come to Christ.
9 The Southern Sudanese have fled to Egypt in their millions from the long civil war in Sudan. Many are destitute, or survive on the fringes of society. Many are professing Christians. Pray for the spiritual health of these displaced, suffering people, and for adequate Christian and social ministry to them.
10 The missionary vision of the Egyptian church is growing, but it is limited by lack of vision, training opportunities, experience and funds. Missionaries from Egypt would be more acceptable than Western missionaries in many Muslim lands. Pray that the many Egyptian Christians in the West and Middle Eastern oil states may catch the vision to support such a thrust. Pray for:
11 Openings for low-profile Christian service by professionally qualified expatriates are now more numerous than for many years. There are also possibilities for ministry in expatriate community churches. Pray for qualified and experienced labourers! The spiritual battles are intense and frustrations numerous.
a) Scripture distribution. This has increased in the late 1990s. Effective marketing by The Bible Society at the Cairo International Bookfair every January has been remarkably successful. Video and audio cassettes have been especially popular. The Bible League has successfully used Scripture distribution for planting many small Bible study groups.
c) Magalla, a mass-circulation magazine with a Christian slant. Over 60,000 copies are sold of every issue in 16 Middle Eastern lands. Pray for the magazine's continued publication despite opposition, and for its effectiveness in breaking down misconceptions about the gospel. Pray for all engaged in its publication. Pray also for the European edition Kitabi and its use among the 8 million Arab speakers living in Europe as well as the numerous Arab tourists.
e) Satellite television. SAT-7 broadcasts high quality children's and youth, as well as adult, programmes every evening. A large, loyal audience is being built among Christians and non-Christians. Over 10 million Egyptians have access to uncensored satellite programmes.
f) Christian radio. This is a potent tool. Pray for the various Arabic language studios where programmes are prepared, and for Christian broadcasters and listeners. There are nearly 200 hours of Arabic programming monthly by FEBA, TWR, IBRA and others.
g) Videos. A large church in Cairo has distributed video cassette tapes of special evangelistic rallies (Luis Palau, Billy Graham, etc.) to over 500 churches. In many cases this has significantly increased vision and outreach.
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