With the tensions in Egypt rising and the position of Hosni Mubarak looking increasingly vulnerable one minority in particular that need our prayers is the Christian church. Estimates vary as to how many Christians there are in Egypt, the official figure is around 6% but some estimates put it as high as 20%, it is likely to be somewhere in between. There has been a history of discrimination against Christians at a local level; and extreme Islamist groups have targeted churches and Christian groups for attacks and intimidation. The Christian charity Open Doors which seeks to support the persecuted church ranks Egypt as the 19th most difficult country in which to be a Christian. Throughout 2010 tensions between Christians and Muslims increased, believers from a Muslim background are rejected culturally and socially. Christmas 2010 saw a bomb planted outside a church in Alexandria which exploded and killed 21 as they left Christmas services. The Mubarak’s government has had to perform a delicate balancing act between vociferous and often violent extremists and the silent majorities and minorities of Egypt.
As Egypt has faced increasing economic difficulties and corruption has been revealed the population are looking for solutions. ‘Islam is the solution’ is a popular slogan across the Middle East, and is seen by some including the influential Muslim Brotherhood as the answer to Egypt’s economic, social and political difficulties. If Mubarak falls, (as it looks increasingly likely he will), it is not clear who or what will fill emerge to fill the power vacuum. The BBC’s seasoned Middle East watcher Jeremy Bowen observes:
Optimistic Egyptians say free elections, if they ever happen, would produce a vibrant democracy.
Pessimists say that the removal of the police state would lead to chaos – which would be exploited by Egypt’s jihadi groups. These have been suppressed ruthlessly by the Mubarak regime.
The country’s only properly organised mass political movement outside the ruling party is the Muslim Brotherhood, and it would do very well in any free election.
Unlike the jihadis, it does not believe it is at war with the West. It is conservative, moderate and non-violent. But it is highly critical of Western policy in the Middle East.
The church in Egypt is in need of our prayers, not just for the struggles that they face today but also for the struggles that they are likely to face in the coming years. We should pray for the following:
- A peaceful resolution to the current crisis
- For the emergence of a democratically elected government committed to peace with Israel and the West
- For a government which will guarantee the religious freeedoms of all it’s citizens
- For protection God’s for the church and her leaders – ‘the Church of the Martyrs’
- For wisdom and provision for the church’s leaders, pastors and evangelists
- For the ongoing renewal of the Coptic church