At Release we hear stories of persecution around the world every day. Our partners engage with Christians suffering extreme hardships, providing them with the essential support they desperately need. For young people, trauma can be especially difficult to deal with, as it is often their parents or extended family that have been targeted, attacked or killed due to persecution.
Egypt’s believers are the largest remaining Christian community in the Middle East and one of the oldest, but their numbers are falling as they join the exodus of Christians from across the region. Coptic leaders claim that up to 200,000 have left since February 2011, although other observers say that figure is exaggerated.
Release in Egypt
Recent projects have included:
- Supporting a safe house for Christian women from a Muslim background
- Discipleship training for new believers
- Support for Christians who have been attacked
- Self Help Groups to empower needy women and transform their communities
Population of Egypt: 85 million
Click on the tabs below to hear the stories of Christians in Egypt who are choosing to follow Jesus despite the challenges they face.
Jean is 22 years old and lives with her Muslim family; she likes music and describes herself as a romantic at heart. Her family life has not always been happy. She was young when her father died and then she suffered abuse at the hands of her stepfather. Jean fell in love with a young Christian from a Muslim background and in time came to faith in Christ herself. This caused major problems within her family. Her mother whipped her. On one occasion she left her to bleed from a head wound, and did not allow her to clean the wound which then became infected. On another occasion bleach was thrown on Jean’s head, causing chemical burns and the loss of all her hair, forcing her to wear a wig. Then her mother invited Jean’s uncles to speak to her about her Christian faith. They gave her an ultimatum: to recant her faith in Jesus, or be killed. Jean and others prayed and, in her words, ‘a miracle happened’. Her life was spared, she found employment, and is now self-supporting. Life for Jean is not perfect, but it is now physically tolerable and she has the presence of the Holy Spirit with her. Please pray that she will see yet more miracles in the name of Jesus.
Lily and while small in stature, she is a strong woman of God for her 24 years. Lily’s problems began when she was a child. She was intelligent and wanted a paid job outside her home. This was difficult for her as her family had a high social standing in their village and it was not acceptable for the girls of the family to work. Lily persisted and was sent to live with a female relation who badly mistreated her, making her sleep on the kitchen floor. Every night Lily had to fend off snakes as she lay trying to sleep, afraid of their poisonous venom. While living with her relative her parents came to visit to see if she had come to her senses. They were told, however, that their daughter was possessed by a number of ‘witches’. Various exorcisms took place, often resulting in Lily being injured. On one occasion she received a nasty head injury and took herself to hospital. On her way she cried out to God: ‘I am all alone, and no one cares about me.’ While waiting for treatment, Jesus appeared to her in a vision. She was so struck that when the nurse came to see her she instead asked to be left alone for a few minutes to reflect on her experience.
This was the beginning of salvation for Lily. Moving to Egypt, she met believers who told her of Christ’s love for her, His death and resurrection. For days Lily did not eat so she could save the money to buy a Bible to see if the claims the believers made were true. Through God’s Word, the help of a believer and the work of the Holy Spirit she came to faith in Christ. Although she is young in her Christian faith, she is passionate for others to meet her Saviour.
As a young man Tariq joined an extremist group intent on establishing a strict Islamic society in Egypt. While studying about Islam he was burning down Christian properties. His group also destroyed a church. ‘I was jailed because of that. We burned the church from the roof so I am not sure whether there were any people inside or not.’
After his release from prison Tariq and the extremist group found a newspaper article that was to prove a turning point in Tariq’s life. ‘We read that some Christian missionaries had come to Egypt to convert people so we decided to write a book showing that God is the God of Islam not Christianity and I was chosen to do the research. I didn’t want to but my leader insisted. When he brought me a Bible I couldn’t even take it in my hands and one day deliberately left it on the train, but as I left the train a man handed it back to me, saying “you forgot your holy book”.
As Tariq read the New Testament he found himself attracted to the God within its pages. ‘It was very confusing. The Koran and the Bible were not saying the same things. How could they both be from God? There was no way I was going to worship two different gods but I was sure God would lead me to the answer.’ As Tariq researched more, and as God appeared to him, he concluded that Christ must be God. ‘Once I was in my room I saw a very bright light coming to me, telling me “Jesus wants you”. I was really afraid and I called out to my family and I said “Come and see. Jesus is here”. They came but didn’t see anything and the light I was seeing disappeared. My family thought I had gone crazy and sent me to a psychiatrist and when my leader learned that I had written about the divinity of Christ, he tried to strangle me.’
Churches were understandably sceptical about Tariq’s conversion but eventually one person agreed to meet him and from that meeting Tariq was able to start attending a church. His family also began to accept the change that had occurred in his life because instead of imposing strict rules on them he was instead able to show them a newfound love. ‘My mother told me: “Whoever would do that to you, I will believe him.”’
God is now using Tariq to speak to Christians who want to leave their faith. ‘Pray for me because God is using me to open their minds and convince them that this is not the decision to take.’
Joy, aged 15, attended one of our partner’s trauma-healing workshops after she was involved in a violent attack in her home town in Plateau State, Nigeria. In 2011 there were a series of attacks on the Barkin Ladi district. Attackers entered villages, burning homes and brutally attacking Christians. Joy’s elder sister Janet, 22, left her home and fled with her sisters Josephine, 15, Julie, 12, and little brother Dilon, 6, to the house of their local government councillor, hoping to be safe from the mob there. However, Joy, her mother and brother Nehemiah were not able to get to the house and retreated to her aunt’s home instead. Later on they found out that the councillor’s house was attacked and burnt down ? and many people, including her sisters and brother, were killed. Joy said: ‘There were eight of us children in the family; now we are only four. Half my family is gone.’ Joy suffered such great loss, but during the trauma-healing workshop she enjoyed learning about the story of Joseph in the Old Testament and understanding that God is a God who helps us. Joy said: ‘God will open the way if we pray.’ She says she has found peace listening to the Bible stories.
Bring back our girls
The militant group Boko Haram has been blamed for the killing of thousands of people across north and central Nigeria since 2009.
In April 2014 Boko Haram raided a secondary school for girls in Chibok, Nigeria.
The girls were asleep in their dormitories when the raid took place. The gunmen abducted more than 200 girls and forced them on to lorries, which were driven away by the kidnappers. They also set fire to the school and other properties in Chibok in the five-hour raid.