Within the Arab World, no nation contains as many Christians as Egypt. As a nation there are approximately 80 million Egyptians, and it is commonly constituted that 10% of these are Christian. Yet while some Copts (the name of local Christians, and the word from with ‘Egypt’ is derived) occasionally claim that there are even up to 10 or 12 million Christian Egyptians, the true figure may be as low as 6%. The percentage of Christians has steadily declined in the last several decades, due to various factors. Muslims maintain a higher birthrate than Christians, Christians emigrate abroad in greater number than Muslims, and due to complicated social factors, deserving its own blog sometime in the future, it is not uncommon for Copts to convert to Islam for domestic reasons, be it marriage, divorce, or an oppressive family setting. Add these factors together, and similar to Christianity in much of the Middle East, the church is contracting.
Yet in Egypt at least, unlike in Palestine for example, there is no crisis, if only because any percentage of 80 million people is sizeable. To break down the numbers further, of the Christian population, perhaps 90-95% is Orthodox. Catholics and Protestants have an influence greater than their percentage would suggest, for they can often find support from their international denominations, both in terms of money and theological education, and as such their leaders are accorded national prominence greater than their numerical due.
Behind these logistics is the local setting in Maadi, Cairo, where we reside. Maadi is one of the popular areas for internationals to live, and as such, there are a plethora of worship choices. Among the most popular is Maadi Community Church – http://www.maadichurch.com/. As a Protestant non-denominational church, it attracts over 1000 worshipers during three Friday afternoon services, including one especially tailored for African internationals, both professional and refugee. There is another English language service held at St. John’s Anglican Episcopal, which also operates as an interdenominational fellowship, though high church in tradition. They are smaller in size, meet Friday mornings for traditional service and Thursday evenings for contemplative communion, and have a Rector who has written an interesting book on Muslims and Christians, which you can find through the who’s who link at their webpage – http://www.maadichurch.org/. The local Coptic Church, St. Mark’s – http://www.stmarkmaadi.com/ (Arabic site, but interesting pictures if you dare to experiment; place your cursor on the first rollover link on the column to the right, then click on the third option given. Finally, let us know if you succeed so we can applaud you) even has an English mass once a month on Saturday morning. Of course, we have already written about our general attitude toward belonging to the international community, which you can review in our first post.
Similar to our situation in Jordan, discussed last post, we have a local evangelical church only five minutes walking distance away from our home. Unfortunately, the only meeting time begins at 7pm on Sunday evening. With care given to Egyptian timekeeping, it often does not really begin until later, and then does not end until 9pm or so. Since church is more than just a service, but rather a web of relationships in a community of people, in order to get to know anyone we would need to stay even later to have any fellowship. In general we put Emma and Hannah to bed at 8pm. We wrote in our first post that we will try to become like them as much as possible, though we know we will never succeed, and it would be foolish to imagine we could. The issue of children’s bedtime exposes us in terms of the latter half of that sentence. It seems to us that Egyptian children have little bedtime expectations. Since the vast majority grow up to be responsible adults anyway, we see just how difficult it is to jettison our own cultural superiority. We should mention that the church does have a good Sunday School program, meeting at 12:30pm on Fridays, which Emma has been enjoying, and even memorized her first verse in Arabic last week, Exodus 15:26.
There is also a somewhat famous evangelical church in downtown Cairo, which we could get to by about a 20-30 minute metro ride. They have several services throughout the weekend, some of which have 1000 people at one time. You can check this church out at http://www.kdec.net/, but it is only an Arabic site, it seems. We would prefer a neighborhood church, and one that would be a bit smaller, but still, it is an option.
This leaves one last option, which would involve a resurrection of the quest to discover Christian diversity. St. Mark’s Orthodox Church is located about a twenty minute walk away from our home, and has Friday morning services which include a Sunday School time following a children’s mass. Unfortunately, there is much that would need to be written to introduce this option, so we ask your patience in awaiting part three of this theme…