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Egypt is a “very dark” place for Christians, with worsening persecution in recent years.

That’s the opinion of a Baptist minister in Great Britain, Rev. Wagih Abdelmassih, minister of the London Arabic Evangelical Church, who spoke to The Baptist Times in the wake of the latest attack on Christians in the country.

A 71-year-old Christian man was shot dead and his wife and four others injured after a 23-year-old off-duty policeman opened fire on a train bound for Cairo on Jan. 11. The shooting was less than two weeks after the bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve in which 23 people died and 80 were injured.

“These incidents have taken worldwide attention, but Egypt is one of the world’s worst countries for persecuting Christians,” Abdelmassih said.

He said the denial of jobs and fewer opportunities in education were part of the overall picture as well as a lack of justice for the perpetrators of the attacks.

The effect is that a number of Christians would like to leave the country, and Abdelmassih has received an increase in requests for help in recent weeks. “Normally it’s Muslim converts because life is very tough and risky for them,” he said. “But in the last two weeks it’s been Christians who have grown up as Christians.”

One of the main reasons for the increased hostility in recent years is the proliferation of satellite television. “There are more Muslim channels teaching against Christians and Jews, calling people to fight in Jihad,” said Abdelmassih.

Another reason is an increase in hardline Muslims in government positions. The Muslim Brotherhood party took 20 percent of parliamentary seats in the 2005 election and remains the main opposition party.

If things continue as they are, Egypt will become “like Iraq,” said Abdelmassih, although he noted the climate was not directly comparable.

“It is bad in Egypt, but it is worse in Iraq,” he said. “As far as I’m aware, the big difference is the public in Egypt are supporting Christians. They’re not happy with what’s going on; they know it’s bad for the country.

“I don’t think in Iraq there is this same affinity with the neighbors.”

This point was echoed by Jeremy Moodey, chief executive of BibleLands, a United Kingdom interdenominational development charity, which supports a number of Egyptian Christian nongovernmental organizations working in healthcare, disability and refugee services.

“Most of their non-Christian neighbors are tolerant, as we saw when many Muslims attended this year’s Christmas mass in solidarity,” said Moodey.

“But what unnerves the Coptic Christians is political uncertainty: Will the Islamist extremists be suppressed? Who will replace the ailing 82-year-old President Mubarak? And will a new regime be more hostile to the Christian minority?”

Abdelmassih was speaking ahead of a prayer day for Egypt, coordinated by Christian Solidarity Worldwide on Jan. 29.

This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.

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