Egyptian Copts Remain Targets for Islamic Extremists

Annual Watch List Exposes Worst Religious-Persecution Offenders

The 2019 Open Doors World Watch List is sounding an alarm for Egypt, even as violent excesses of Islamic State and other Islamic militants have mostly disappeared from headlines. Since 2017, Islamic militants have gained strength in Egypt, where they continue to recruit and capture pockets of territory, landing Egypt at No. 16 on the 2019 Open Doors World Watch List.

Egypt has the Middle East's largest population of Christians who are Copts. The Islamic State continues to threaten to wipe out Copts—who make up approximately 10 percent of the 100 million population in the Middle East—by terrorizing them with targeted murders of respected leaders, such as doctors. Other Islamic groups have also targeted Copts with bombings of churches and killing a bus full of pilgrims. Despite Copts' pleas for protection, the government has given little response, even with the conviction of some killers and attackers.

"Egypt remains a hotbed for Islamic extremists to target and attempt to destroy the Christian community," said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. "We must continue to be vigilant in advocating for Christians in the Middle East who have limited religious freedom rights."

Overall, Open Doors World Watch List estimates that over 245 million Christians now experience high, very high or extreme persecution, an increase from 215 million in 2018.

In its 27th year, the list—which is the world's only assessment of religious persecution based upon in-depth, rigorous analysis of on-the-ground, first-person research—remains a global indicator of where human and religious rights are being violated, and those countries most vulnerable to societal unrest and destabilization.

Top 10

  1. North Korea
  2. Afghanistan
  3. Somalia
  4. Libya
  5. Pakistan
  6. Sudan
  7. Eritrea
  8. Yemen
  9. Iran
  10. India

Persecution at a Glance

Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. While persecution of Christians takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ. Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape and even death, as a result of their faith.

Media Resources


The Open Doors World Watch List is the only comprehensive, annual survey of the state of religious liberty for Christians around the world. From Nov. 1, 2017, to Oct. 31, 2018, researchers measured the degree of freedom a Christian has to live out his or her faith in five spheres of life—private, family, community, national and church, plus a sixth category measuring the degree of violence. Points are given for each incident of persecution, and the total points provide the ranking for each country. For more information on the methodology of the Open Doors World Watch List, please visit

About Open Doors USA 

For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world's most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Open Doors works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution and equips the Western church to advocate for the persecuted. Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. For more information, visit