Friday, September 25, 2009

Egypt - the most Religious Country in the World!

A Gallup Poll <> , posted Feb 2009, compiled findings about the importance of faith to individuals in 143 countries.  Egypt was listed as the Most Religious Country in the world!  When people were asked "Is religion an important part of your daily life?" Egypt registered in at 100%.

As the Bible provider for Egypt, the Bible Society of Egypt (BSOE) is fortunate to work with such religious people!  A major problem of Bible publishers in many other countries, and especially the "Christian West," is the lack of interest in the Scriptures, with one of their main tasks being to convince people of the relevance of the Bible.  

Not a problem in Egypt!  Scripture products are constantly in demand by all, gratefully received and valued, and the Church is essentially overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the needs. Operating at full capacity, the Churches in Egypt are only able to serve 20 – 30% of the total Christian population (10-12 million).

The Gallup article states, "Obviously, these data only compare the importance of religion in people's lives -- they say nothing about what being highly religious means in different parts of the world and among different faiths".

For many in Egypt, being "Christian" simply means being baptized, married and buried in the Church, and there is great security in that.  Many are culturally Christian, very passionate about their religion, simply because they are intensely non-Muslim.  While many would desire the blessings of attending church or reading/hearing the Scriptures, the pressures of life and difficult economic situation leaves little time or energy for this.  Many in fact, have no church in their vicinity at all.  

Coptic Christian festivals in honor of a variety of saints are a good example of Egyptian religiosity.  Held annually at many traditional sites where Jesus passed through Egypt as a small child, festivals last from 5 days to 2 weeks.  A very festive atmosphere, vendors of every sort sell food and drink, literature, music, clothes, make-up, toys, etc. from their makeshift booths and tents.  Children swarm about small carnival-type rides.  Families save throughout the year in order to make this annual visit, camping out for days, making do with crowded and less-than-adequate facilities.  Children are baptized, and many receive the customary cross tattoo on the inside of the wrist.

The attendance at these occasions is in the thousands, even millions.  Poor and illiterate people attend particularly, even some Muslims, in order to seek healing or blessing from the saints.  The vast majority are unable to read the Bible or understand the classical Arabic used in Church, have little Biblical knowledge, and are steeped in folk religion and superstition.

Such large gatherings provide a key opportunity to increase awareness and availability of the Scriptures.  Bible Society representatives set up booths alongside the others, pointing people to the Scriptures in daily discussions with many, pleading and urging these religious Christians to seek protection and peace in God's Word.

Along with the tragic spiritual need, there is heart-breaking physical need.  Many in Egypt, both old and young, suffer from poor vision.  One family came to the booth several times, their attention focused on the large-print Bible.  An expensive item, sold at a discounted price, still cost too much.  The staff offered the Bible, originally priced at 200 LE, to them for just 25 LE ($5).  Emptying their pockets and purses, they came up with 23 LE, which the staff accepted.  On afterthought, the salesman asked the family if they had money for return transportation to their village, which they did not.  Some money was then returned to the family for travel fare.

Through these festivals, the Bible Society is reaching masses of religious Christians who might not access the Scriptures otherwise.  The Coptic Orthodox Church approves BSOE materials and is very supportive of our efforts to provide them with the "source texts" of the Faith.

Please pray for the millions of people who have received God's Word through all these past years of Bible Work in Egypt.  Pray that for many, "being highly religious" would come to mean a close and personal relationship with Christ through His Holy Word.

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