Egypt’s Christians trace their roots to the apostle St. Mark, who in the middle of the first century sowed the faith in the Egyptian city of Alexandria.
Twenty centuries later, the descendants of these Christians, called Copts, find themselves a strong minority. About 90 percent of Egyptians are Sunni Muslims; Coptic Christians make up almost exactly 10 percent of the population. (That figure, however, is debatable. Some analysts, including the Pew Research Center, believe the percentage to be much lower. The numbers presented here, nevertheless, reflect the traditional accounting of Christians in Egypt.)
Copts today form the largest Christian community in the Middle East, divided into three groups. Most belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church. Others belong to the Coptic Catholic or Coptic Evangelical churches.
Egypt has faced political and economic turmoil over the last several years, coupled with increasing acts of violence, terrorism and persecution. Just a few years ago, Islamic extremists burned down an estimated 76 churches around the country, and Christian institutions have struggled to rebuild and retain their foothold. The upheaval has prompted some Christians simply to pull up stakes and move, with a growing number of Copts emigrating to the United States and Canada.