August 19, 2013

During the turmoil in Egypt, Christians have faced continued violence


While the vast majority of Egyptians are Muslim, about 5% (more than 4 million people) are Christian

Clashes between Egypt’s security forces and supporters of former Egyptian President and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi continue to capture the world’s attention, with hundreds dead and thousands injured.

DN_Egypt_CoptsAt the same time, Egypt’s Coptic Christians also have faced continued violence. As many as 52 churches were attacked throughout Egypt in a 24-hour period last week, according to some reports. Even before that, a statement condemning ongoing sectarian attacks was issued by 16 human rights groups.

About a third (35%) of Egyptian Muslims say that all, most or many Muslims in their country are hostile toward Christians, according to a Pew Research Center survey of the world’s Muslims. And, about half (50%) of Egypt’s Muslims say that all, most or many Christians are hostile toward Muslims, the highest share in the 26 countries where the question was asked.

The vast majority of Egyptians (about 95%) are Muslim, but according to 2010 Pew Research estimates, about 5% are Christian. In such a large country, that amounts to more than 4 million people – putting the group among the world’s 10 largest populations of Christians living as minorities.

Media reports sometimes say that Christians make up a higher share of Egypt’s population. A number of factors make it difficult to find a consensus about the exact percentage of Egyptians who are Christian, as addressed in more detail in 2011 by Pew Research Demographer Conrad Hackett. But census and survey data show a gradual decline in Christians’ share of the population over most of the last century. Still, Egypt has by far the largest Christian population in the Middle East-North Africa region, where Christians are a minority in all 20 countries and territories.

For details on the updated sources and methodology used in the above chart, see here.

Category: Daily Number

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. Kevin Lawrence4 years ago

    The current CIA World Fact Book gives a figure of 10% for the percentage of the Egyptian population that is Christian. This is considerably higher than Pew’s 5.1%.


    1. Michael Lipka4 years ago

      Thanks very much, Kevin, for pointing out the 10% figure in the CIA Factbook. You’re right, 10% is a commonly mentioned estimate of the size of Egypt’s Christian population – it appears often in newspaper stories, including this article just the other day in The Washington Post. It’s been cited so many times that it seems to have taken on a life of its own! And that’s exactly our point. We can find lots of people and organizations citing the 10% figure, and the Copts themselves sometimes claim an even larger figure, but our demographers have not been able to find any census or large-scale survey data that support the 10% statistic. Unfortunately, the CIA Factbook, which aggregates data from various sources, does not reveal the source of this estimate. One of our demographers, Conrad Hackett, discussed this issue in more detail here. We don’t intend to disparage anyone else’s estimates, but in the absence of further explanations, we have to privilege the typical sources of demographic data that are the customary basis of our estimates.

  2. Jose Crespo4 years ago

    That 50% of Muslims believed that Egyptian Christians were hostile speaks volumes of how distorted this Muslim population seems to be, Why because IT IS VIRTUALLY impossible for Egyptian Christian to be hostile to Egyptian Muslims, because any perceived hostility is met with what is called collective punishment. Muslims often punish entire Christian neighborhoods when there is even the slightest indication of any hostility by a single individual Christian. Therefore, Egyptian Christians for the most part live in constant fear of offending Muslims. In contrast, Muslims in Egypt do not have to worry about offending Christians because it is the NORM to offend Christians. This survey question is a bit ridiculous because it seems to be based on an assumption that Christians and Muslims engage on equal terms. There is no equality for Non-Muslims in Muslim majority areas, never has been, never will be. The persecution of Non-Muslims, particularly Christians is one of the most ignored social phenomenon in history. The US news outlets rarely give it the attention that it deserves.