Such a tendency is wrong and unfair toward the non-Orthodox Coptic Christians in Egypt.
The great majority of Coptic Christians are Coptic Orthodox and they probably make up 95% of the total Christian population in Egypt. The non-Coptic Christians are Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox but their communities are very small and only number a few thousand.
Research by French statistician Dr. Philippe Fargues and others has convincingly shown on the basis of verifiable research that around 6% of Egypt’s population is Christian, not 10%. Most Egyptian Christians do not want to accept that figure since it undermines claims about church building and the number of Christians in top government positions but the fact is that the church has thus far only produced estimates and not figures that could be counted and verified.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Rev. Menes Abdel Nur responding to “Christian activists’ contributions to Christian migration from the Arab world; can Christianity survive in the Arab world?” Arab-West Report, Week 52, Art 7, December 31, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-52/7-rev-menes-abdel-n363r-responding-christian-activists-contributions-christian.
Rev. Menes Abdel Nur, “Some people leave Egypt to go to a free country, but we have noticed that those who have left Egypt have escaped problems…but they have found in the countries they emigrated to different kinds of problems.” People lie in order to be able to emigrate.
Cornelis Hulsman, “Bishop Marqus responding to “Christian activists’ contributions to Christian migration from the Arab world; can Christianity survive in the Arab world?” Arab-West Report, Week 52, Art 8, December 31, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-52/8-bishop-marqus-responding-christian-activists-contributions-christian-migration.
Bishop Marcos: “there are between 10 and 11 million in Egypt now. And we have about two million people abroad.” In response to Philippe Fargues skepticism about church records the bishop answers “each diocese has its own records. I myself have them.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Bishop Qultah responding to “Christian activists’ contributions to Christian migration from the Arab world; can Christianity survive in the Arab world?” Arab-West Report, Week 52, Art 9, December 31, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-52/9-bishop-qultah-responding-christian-activists-contributions-christian-migration.
Bishop Qultah: “The reasons for emigration are not religious, they are economic. Muslims emigrate just as Christians do. All the youth wants to leave. These people emigrate because there is no vision, no future, no dreams about the future, so why stay in Egypt? Cornelis do not forget that Christians want to emigrate to Europe and the majority of Muslims want to emigrate to the Gulf. There are four million Egyptians in the Gulf countries.”
“The majority of Muslims are persecuted and, like us Copts, they are subject to injustice. We Copts have a Coptic perspective of the situation. All lower social classes are subject to injustice. However, this is clearer amongst Copts because besides injustice, they suffer from trivialization in society. Copts cannot express themselves in similar ways as Muslims do. Moreover, the majority of Egyptians are marginalized by the wealthy elite and the state.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Editorial,” Arab-West Report, Week 48, Art 1, January 6, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-48/1-editorial.
I agree with Dr. Mukhtār Hallūdah, former chairman of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), that Coptic Christians number around five million and not twelve as Pope Shenouda recently claimed [art. 34, 24 Nov 2008]. We recently interviewed French statistician Dr. Philippe Fargues who believes that CAPMAS’s numbers are much closer to the truth. A transcript of this interview is being made and will be placed in AWR soon. I, however, disagree with Dr. Mukhtār Hallūdah’s statement that Pope Shenouda does not have the right to conduct a census since this is solely the state’s authority. In my view any religious organization should be able to count its own members but the methods should be made public so that people are able to verify the claims that are being made. Hallūdah’s view is the reflection of a very authoritarian state.
Michael Faris, “We asked Butrus Ghali to nominate five names for Egypt’s rule and he escaped with a loud laugh!” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 3, Art 23, January 19, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-3/23-we-asked-butrus-ghali-nominate-five-names-egypts-rule-and-he-escaped-loud-laugh.
“Q: Until now freedom of "conscience" is not recognized in Egypt; a court decision has ruled that a dash be put in front of the religion box for Bahā’īs. Is Egypt still a backward country?
A: 52% of people are not part of the three heavenly religions. There are around 100 Bahā’īs in Egypt. So if we deny them their rights it will be a great violation of human rights. They should have all their civil and political rights; they are part of society.
Q: Pope Shenouda has declared that the number of Copts in Egypt is 12 million and some Muslim intellectuals say that there are only five million. What is the truth about these contradictory figures? And are Copts in Egypt a minority group that should be treated like minorities in Europe?
A: The number of Copts is not important; even if there is only one Copt, his/her rights are equal to those of Muslims. Copts are equal to Muslims.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Interview with Munir Fakhri ‘Abd al-Nur,” Arab-West Report, Week 3, Art 2, January 21, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-3/2-interview-mun299r-fakhr299-cabd-al-n363r.
Interview with Munīr Fakhrī ‘Abd al-Nūr, who discusses Christian emigration from Egypt and the number of Copts in Egypt, among other topics. “The number of Christians that are considering emigrating is very large, but so is the number of Muslims who are trying to emigrate out of Egypt, because of the lack of jobs, because of the economic situation, because of the lack of opportunities, whatever the reasons are. I am not sure about the decline in figures or the percentage, in the absence of a reliable census I am not sure.”
Copts “are subject to discrimination in many areas, all this is correct but this does not mean that Christianity in Egypt will be wiped out and this does not mean that the percentage of Christians in Egypt has declined from 11 to 5 percent, this is absolutely not correct. It is extremely dangerous to use this kind of incorrect figures, when Copts say that we are today at least eleven or twelve percent of the population. The number of Copts today in Egypt ranges from between at least eight and ten million. It gives us strength to ask for our rights and our place in society and in the political and economic life of the country. But when you wrongly claim that the percentage has declined from eleven percent to six percent, it can only harm and jeopardize our position and our claim to have rights that we don’t have. I totally reject this not only on a statistical basis but also on a logical or political basis.”
Tariq Al-Shami, “How many Muslims are there in Egypt?” Al-Dustūr in Arab-West Report, Week 5, Art 20, February 1, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-5/20-how-many-muslims-are-there-egypt.
The author wrote that his and the readers’ ignorance about how many Muslims there are in Egypt is not his or their fault. Rather, it is the result of a deliberate policy adopted by the government for many years. It is a policy of concealing facts and information. He does not understand why the government and its bodies would conceal this information from society. This attitude could harm society as a whole. In that way, it opens the door for guesses from parties inside Egypt and abroad. The estimates are based on the percentage of the Copts to the Muslims in Egypt, which in turn are based on the censuses conducted at beginning of the twentieth century. Based on this percentage, Egypt has 6 or 7 million Copts. Meanwhile, in foreign reports, the figure rises to 9 or 10 million. Coptic human rights activists estimate that the number is over 15 million Copts.
The author added that it is almost the same contradiction in the available information on Bahā’ī numbers. The number ranges from 2000 people to over 17000 people or even more. The only available estimate for Jews is 97 people.
He added that in such confusion, it is impossible to know whether there are over 70 million Muslims or if there are 67 million or if there are just 62 million. The state is afraid of human rights claims if it made the numbers of the minorities in Egypt available.
He added that we do not even know the budgets of a number of the ministries. Meanwhile, the civilized peoples of Europe and the U.S not only know the budgets of their governments and how the financial resources are used, but also discuss and amend the budgets.
Although the National Democratic Party (NDP) declared that it developed in the last conferences a proposal on the freedom (right) of access to information to be adopted by the government and ratified by the People’s Assembly (Egyptian parliament). Yet, the proposal was never finished for reasons only known to the National Democratic Party and the government.
He concluded that the state is not serious about adopting a transparent policy. The reason is that access to information leads to accountability, which leads to trials and possibly ends in prison sentences. Therefore, the government has avoided the hassle.
“American ’Open Doors’ puts Egypt 21th out of 50 states that persecute Christians,” Al-Dustūr in Arab West Report, Week 6, Art 22, February 9, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-6/22-american-open-doors-puts-egypt-21st-out-50-states-persecute-christians (www.opendoorsuk.org/resources/country-profiles.asp).
Al-Dustūr presents Open Doors as an American organization interested in Christian issues in the world (Editor: Open Doors was founded in The Netherlands. Later a sister organization was founded in the US). The organization ranked Egypt 21st on the list of countries that persecute Christians. The organization’s report does not present Egypt as a country that completely denies Copts’ rights, but as a country that imposes strong restrictions on Copts’ freedom of creed.
Muhammad al-Baz, “Your hordes Bishop Bishuy,” Al-Fajr in Arab West Report, Week 7, Art 33, February 16, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-7/33-your-hordes-bishop-b299sh363y.
“In the third episode of his serialized interview with al-Bāz, Bishop Bīshūy speaks about his views concerning other Christian denominations and other local issues.
In his interview with al-Bāz Bishop Bīshūy clarified his point, stating that his stance against some Christian denominations was mainly because of some American missionaries that preache Zionist Christianity in Egypt. He stated that such missionary groups come to Egypt not to convert Muslims, but Christians of other denominations. He stated that his statements were interpreted by Rev. Rif‘at Fikrī, a protestant pastor as being against Protestantism.
Responding to a question about other Christian denominations’ accusations against him, Bishop Bīshūy stated that they are against him because of his strict stances on certain ideas. He elaborated that a large and influential Christian denomination in Egypt (Reviewer: No name mentioned) was preaching that heathens will be saved. According to Bishop Bīshūy, this is enough to destroy not only Christianity but all other religions. Tackling more national Egyptian issues, Bishop Bīshūy spoke about the number of Copts in Egypt, stating that no one knows the real number of Copts in Egypt, and the figures that are announced are mere guesses (Editor: interesting statement following Pope Shenouda’s statement that Egypt’s Christians make up 12% of Egyptian population –See AWR 2008 week 35 article 16 for Pope Shenouda’s statement and AWR 2008 week 45 article 36 and week 48 article 34 for more information on this discussion).”
Nadir Shukri, “The governor of Minia inaugurates a church and a mosque at the same time,” Waṭanī in Arab West Report, Week 8, Art 21, February 22, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-8/21-governor-minia-inaugurates-church-and-mosque-same-time.
“The governor of Minia inaugurated a church and a mosque on the same day in Samallut.
The village of Banī Ghanī in Samallūt has enjoyed a unique experience as the villagers sent an invitation to the governor of Minia, Ahmad Diyā’ al-Dīn to celebrate the inauguration of the Evangelical church and al-Wastānī mosque on the same day. The population of the village is estimated at 10000 people, with Muslims representing 60 percent of that and Christians representing the other 40 percent. The celebration took place away from any sectarian violence that often leads to local conflicts during the inauguration of new churches or service buildings.”
Hani Samir, Tariq ‘Abbas and Muhamad Sayf, „What would you do in a country where sectarian strife is ignited, the killed and wounded fall and the cross and crescent fight because of “eye lashes and flirtation?" Al-Dustūr in Arab-West Report, Week 10, Art 10, March 11, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-10/10-what-would-you-do-country-where-sectarian-strife-ignited-killed-and-wounded.
Many sectarian incidents are caused by male/female relations between Muslims and Christians. Several examples were given. The authors stated that Christians comprise six percent of the Egyptian population according to the official state census. Authors believe that there are other factors that render the issue even more complicated through the effect of elements of sectarian strife in Egyptian society through foreign bodies and missionary groups. They also referred to conversion and mixed Muslim-Christian marriages as other factors that add to the
complexity of the issue.
‘Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari, “The ordeal of religious minorities in Arab societies,” Waṭanī al-Dawlī in Arab-West Report, Week 11, Art 15, March 15, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-11/15-ordeal-religious-minorities-arab-societies.
The author states that the sufferings of religious and factional minorities in Arab countries will result in emigration. Christians in Iraq, Jews in Yemen, Bahā’īs and Shī‘ah minorities are mentioned. Throughout Islamic history, religious and factional minorities have lived in safety and protection. What changed this? What is the benefit of the dozens conferences on the importance of interfaith dialogues Arab countries hold?
CH: Egypt is not mentioned in this article but since this was published in an Egyptian publication Egyptian readers cannot have missed that this message concerned also Egypt.
Hani Samir, “‘How, and for how long?’ a movie on the Web ends with Pope Shenouda’s tears for Coptic victims in the Mubarak era,” Al-Dustūr in Arab West Report, Week 11, Art 24, March 15, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-11/24-how-and-how-long-movie-web-ends-pope-shenoudas-tears-coptic-victims-mub257rak.
Copts in the United States have broadcast their film protesting about the discrimination against Copts in Egypt. The film shows a photograph of a report entitled ’Copts’ harvest in the Mubārak age’ in which it states that Copts comprise 20 percent of the Egyptian population (Editor: this is nonsense. See previous comment in AWR, in particular a comment of French scholar Dr. Philippe Fargues, AWR, 2008, Week52, Art. 18) but they have got no freedom to build houses of worship or occupy key governmental and public positions, unlike Muslims who comprise 80 percent of the Egyptian population and enjoy 100 percent of those rights. (Editor: there are problems but the statements as presented here are highly exaggerated). The report mentioned the following statistics: Copts who occupy ministerial positions comprise 6.25 percent of the population, ambassadors: 0.4 percent, People’s Assembly members: 1.3 percent, judicial positions: one percent and Copts who join the army and the police force academies make up one percent of that segment of the population.”
‘Adil Jundi, “The most respected law in the land (original in English, not edited by AWR),” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 12, Art 11, March 22, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-12/11-most-respected-law-land-original-english-not-edited-awr.
Provides list of churches in Egypt, divided into 1) reparation and 2) New build, by year:
“(It is worth mentioning that the total number of churches in Egypt is 2524, 1319 of which are Copt Orthodox, and the total number of monasteries in Egypt is 196, 84 of which are Copt Orthodox. The following tables show that the building and maintenance of churches in Egypt has not stopped in Egypt (sic.) and that these churches are distributed throughout the country.)”
(Note editor AWR: earlier in the text it is mentioned that the total number of churches in Egypt is 2524 but in this table it is 2456).
The total number of churches and monasteries given in the above table as 2456 is 264 less than what is mentioned elsewhere in the same letter (2524 churches plus 196 monasteries). Neither figure matches the IDSC’s report - with a discrepancy up to 646. (Editor AWR: the discrepancy of numbers is telling for the general inaccuracy of numbers in Egypt.) Also, the stated number of monasteries appears quite exaggerated. The Coptic Orthodox monasteries must be below 25, not 84; and those of other denominations cannot possibly reach 112. The figures probably include monasteries in other brotherly Arab countries!
[…] the reported dismal figure of 65 new-church permits in the past ten years hides the fact that most of the related presidential decrees were actually issued to ‘regularize’ the situation of churches built decades ago (Editor AWR: true!).
In fact the number of new-church permits in 2006-2007 (a total of THREE, according to the above table) is indicative of the sad reality. Also, according to reports by EIPR (Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights), all the 17 presidential decrees issued in 2008 were, without exception, related to repair work or to regularization of existing churches.
Incidentally, even if we assume that the real number of decreed permits of ‘new’ churches in the past ten years was as much as half the given figure of 65- which is a virtually impossible assumption – it still means a mere total increase of 1.3% in a decade, which is less than the demographic growth per year.[Editor AWR: one should of course look at the growth of the number of seats in churches and compare that to demographic growth per year since some churches may be small and others large but such figures are hard to obtain. Anyhow, even then the total increase will be lower then the demographic growth per year.
[…] if we consider that the Copts represent just 10% of Egypt’s population, or about 8.5 million, and since 90% of them belong to the Coptic (Orthodox) Church, we can deduce that there is at best one church per 5900 persons of that community (Editor AWR: that assumption is incorrect. A better assumption is 6%, see Philippe Fargues in AWR, 2008, Week 52, Art. 18).
Note also that the Coptic Evangelicals, who make up about 7-8% of the total Copts, are divided into 18 denominations, each having its own churches, which are often no more than small prayer halls.
On the other hand, Egypt boasts 120,000 mosques (plus about 900,000 prayer halls), of which 100,500 mosques (Al-Ahram, May 1, 2008) are run by the Ministry of (Islamic) Endowments. This amounts to one mosque per 640 Muslim citizens (or 75 if we include prayer halls)
[…] churches are dealt with in a totally different way from mosques. The simple fact of keeping track of church repair permits proves the point, since nobody needs to obtain a permit to build, let alone repair, a mosque.
Jamal al-‘Utayfi. “Report by Dr. Jamal al-‘Utayfi on the al- Khankah sectarian events,” Arab West Report, Week 13, Art 2, April 1, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-13/2-report-dr-jamal-al-utayfi-al-khankah-sectarian-events.
“A large number of Copts occupy important positions, especially in the health and psychological health sectors, where the percentage of Coptic employees exceeds sixty percent, as they constitute 38 out of 59 employees (according to the data provided by the head of the city council). The total number of Coptic employees in that center is 111 out of a total of 856 employees.”
“The number of al-Khankah residents according to the population census published in 1960 was 21863 of whom 615 were Christians. But the data presented to the committee by the city council state that the number of Christians does not exceed 36 families. The committee requested a statement from the Central Authority for Public Accounting and Statistics (CAPMAS) after its head contacted Lieutenant General Jamāl ‘Askar. The reply it received indicates that in 1966 there were in al-Khankah city 692 Christians, increasing in 1972 to 8.3 [sic] Christians, whereas the total number of Christians in al-Khankah center (city and villages) in 1966 stood at 2552 increasing in 1972 to 2963.”
“[…] the number of churches existing in Egypt (MTN: according to CAPMAS) is 1442; but the data provided by the ministry of the interior on the number of churches registered indicates that there are 500 churches, 286 of which are Coptic. This difference could be due to part of these churches having been established before the ministry [sic] of interior’s decision in 1934, while some were built without a presidential decree licensing them having been issued. It also transpired that the total number of churches for which licenses were issued within the last ten years were one hundred and twenty seven, of which sixty eight were Coptic Orthodox. Of that number licenses were issued for twenty-two new churches, while four licenses were issued for the rebuilding and repair of existing churches, while forty two were considered to be old (already?) licensed churches.”
“The committee also determined from the information it requested from the Ministry of Social Affairs that the number of Islamic societies in Egypt is 679 societies, and that the number of Christian Orthodox societies is 438 societies, all of which, Muslim and Christian, receive regular annual assistance from the Ministry of Social Affairs of 49290 pounds for the Islamic societies and 25785 pounds for the Orthodox societies.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Summary with comments on the report by Dr. Jamal al-‘Utayfi on the al-Khankah Sectarian Events,” Arab-West Report, Week 13, Art 3, April 1, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-13/3-summary-comments-report-dr-jam257l-al-cutayf299-al-khankah-sectarian-events
Interesting are the population statistics. The number of al-Khankah residents according to the population census published in 1960 was 21863 of whom 615 were Christians. The city council, however, stated "that the number of Christians does not exceed 36 families." The Central Authority for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) stated that in 1966 there were in al-Khankah city 692 Christians whereas the total number of Christians in al-Khankah center (city and villages) in 1966 stood at 2552 increasing in 1972 to 2963. In other words the City Council provided a number which was too low but the percentage of Christians in the area anyhow was small.