Faith Tourism Does Not Equal Religious Freedom in Egypt

Faith Tourism Does Not Equal Religious Freedom in Egypt

Egypt has announced that it will develop the city of Saint Catherine in South Sinai with the goal of putting a neglected area on the international tourism map.

Saint Catherine is located just 50 miles north of Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular resort area for tourists. A member of Egypt’s Parliamentary Committee on Tourism, Ahmed Idriss, said, “It can stand as a symbol of tolerance and coexistence between all religions and cultures.” 

Ironically, persecution of Christians in Sinai was so intense that most have been displaced from their homes. This persecution was primarily driven by ISIS affiliated extremists, particularly in Arish. Christians who have tried returning home have instead died. In other parts of Egypt, peaceful coexistence is constantly challenged, such as the recent mob attack against Christians in Dabous.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s history towards religious freedom since the rise of ISIS in 2014 includes many symbolic gestures and little actual policy changes. For example, Egypt has built the country’s largest cathedral in a city where Christians don’t live. Many statements have been made regarding religious freedom, but they are often framed in the context of promoting faith tourism.

Egypt did pass a law in 2016 which sought to streamline the church legalization process, but a number of challenges remain within this process and no other steps have been taken to correct policies which persecute Christians (such as blasphemy laws).