Dr. Michael Wahid Hanna of the Century Foundation (US), one of the speakers during the Henriette van Lynden lecture of June 11, organized by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was asked by Cornelis Hulsman for the source of his estimated percentage of Christians in Egypt, 10% in 1950 and 10% in 2014. Hulsman commented that it is generally known that the proportion of Christians must have declined because Christians have, in the past decades, migrated to the West in larger numbers than Muslims, and tend to have smaller families than Muslims. Dr. Hanna’s response was that there was “no census” and that he thus took 10% as the most likely estimate since this is most commonly reported proportion in media and on the internet.
The paper of Cornelis Hulsman, published in MIDEO (2012), pp 419-482, shows, however, a very wide margin between the figures of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), and those presented by different Coptic Orthodox Church leaders. The CAPMAS shows a general decline in the proportion of Christians until the last census that published data on Christians in 1996, ultimately showing a percentage of 5.7%. Leaders of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Coptic activists and a number of scholars have been continuously arguing for a substantially higher percentage, generally between 10 and 15%, without providing a verifiable system of counting. The paper provides both the arguments of those who claim a higher proportion, as well as those who believe that the CAPMAS figures are more reliable. The paper also gives an historical overview of the discussion on statistics, along with the reasons for the ongoing decline of the number of Christians in Egypt.