An evangelistic event, "Count it Right," began last night in Egypt where thousands of Christians are expected to attend over the course of three-days despite the very real possibility of facing persecution.
The event is being held 70 miles north of Cairo, and although 26,000 people are anticipated to appear, event organizers fear that Islamic extremists may have also purchased tickets for the conference to carry out acts of violence.
"Because the organizers do not know how many Muslims may have purchased tickets for the rally, please pray for them that their lives may be changed to know Jesus as their Savior by the love they will feel from the staff and by the life changing-messages," wrote Open Doors, a California-based ministry that aids Christians in the world's most oppressive and restrictive countries, on its website.
During the event, over 1,000 workers, preachers, volunteers and Christian artists will be on hand to give participants the opportunity to experience morning and evening worship services. Attendees will also be able to participate in an extreme motorcycle sports show, an art gallery and theatre performances that have been planned to share the Gospel in creative forms.
Open Doors, who is not sponsoring the event and whose work in Egypt is oftentimes secretly facilitated due to security concerns, has ranked Egypt #25 on their World Watch List that names the top 50 countries with the worst Christian persecution problem.
Under Egypt's constitution, Christians are free to practice their faith but persecution has become widespread as Muslim extremists have been seeking to deny those rights since the 2011 revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Following the country's revolutionary turmoil, thousands of Christians fled Egypt because of the increase in violence against them that have continued to this day. Most recently, tensions between Christians and Muslim Brotherhood supporters have turned violent as a result of President Mohamed Morsi being ousted in July.
Morsi was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and after he was overthrown, Egypt's Coptic Christian community was blamed by extremists, who resorted to continued violent tactics against them in an effort to gain back power.
Persecution of Christians is also caused by the inability or unwillingness of security forces to provide protection for churches, according to Todd Daniels, regional manager for the Middle East for the International Christian Concern organization.
"This has left many Christians vulnerable to attacks, and due to impunity it has further emboldened those who are abusing Christians," Daniels told The Christian Post. "This has led to an increase of kidnapping for ransom throughout Upper Egypt, attacks on churches, extortion money being demanded of Christians by criminal gangs, among other abuses. In the vast majority of cases the Christian community has made calls for help and they have gone unanswered."
However, according to Open Doors, the evangelical church continues to grow amid the rise of oppression. Currently, Christians account for 10 to 12 million of the Egyptian population, and while an exact figure is unknown due to those who live in rural areas who are not included in data census counts because they lack proper identification, the Christian minority community in Egypt is the largest in the Middle East.
"The Holy Spirit is working mightily in Egypt," said Jerry Dykstra, the media relations director for Open Doors. "There is revival and many coming to Christ. Yes, there are many dangers for Christians, especially from the Muslim Brotherhood extremists. But for decades we have seen that in times of great persecution, the Gospel is preached and people turn to the Lord."