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Report on the Plight of Christians in Egypt


The lives of Coptic women subjected to forced marriages and conversions usually remain so heavily burdened with social and legal problems after they have escaped from their Muslim husbands and in-laws that anything like a normal life is impossible. Because of their conversion to Islam, they were given new identity cards listing their religion as Islam. While they may be successful in obtaining a divorce from their Muslim husbands, they are rarely able to obtain a reversal of their religious status. Thus, conversion to Islam is considered non-retractable and any attempt to revert to one’s faith of origin is considered a form of apostasy — a capital offense according to Islamic law. Because re-conversion is not permissible, it is impossible for Coptic women returning to Christianity to obtain new identity cards. Identity cards, which carry a person’s religion, are required in Egypt and are necessary for employment, education, and access to public services. The Egyptian government’s intransigence carries wide-ranging consequences for those women wishing to resume their lives as Christians.


As the country develops, Egyptian children face new challenges, while the old tragedies of poverty continue to haunt 40 percent of families. Thousands are born into poverty, where malnutrition at a young age translates into lifelong health problems. The pressures of meeting daily financial obligations force many families to put their children to work, often in hazardous occupations that jeopardize their health as well as their futures. As a result of more family units breaking apart, there is an increase in the number of children living on the streets.

Egypt, one of the larger countries in Africa, has a population of 80 million people, 20 million of whom are children with ages 14 and younger. Many of these children are abandoned and live on the streets or in the few centers that the Egyptian government has created for its homeless. The fact that the Egyptian law is influenced by Islamic jurisprudence (sharia), all street children enrolled at any government centers are given an Islamic name and religion, regardless of their religion.

In Egypt, both civil and Islamic law forbids adoption. Islamic law does not permit an orphan to take on the family name of a non-biological parent. Foster parents can support the child financially and raise him or her in their home, but fostering remains the only option. Due to Islam's rigid rules governing relationships between males and females, foster parents may not keep an orphan in their home beyond puberty.

However, under Egyptian law, there is no provision for adoption by Christian families. Christian families who want to adopt a child must therefore take him or her from a church rather than from a governmental orphanage. Such church institutions taking care of children do not receive any support from the government and the survival of these orphanages depends highly on the charity of independent donors.

Churches & Religious Institutions

Despite constitutional guarantees regarding religious freedom, Copts regularly face discrimination. Furthermore, it is in practice virtually impossible for Copts to build new churches and/or religious institutions and even to repair or extend their existing churches, whereas no such difficulties exist for the building of new mosques.

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