Christians in a Muslim Egypt


I have been reading more to understand the situation in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. Freedom is indeed on the march throughout the Arab world. It is something that few thought was even a remote possibility. President Bush deserves credit for believing the impossible was possible throughout the Middle East (see here).

However, the significance of Egypt is much more than political.  The future of Christians in the Arab world could well follow the course of Christians in Egypt.  Will there be a place for Christians in Egypt?  Christians aren’t sure.

Part of the reason for the uncertainty is the uncertainty in the movement itself.  No one seems to have expected this uprising. There was no planned revolution.  No one is in charge of this sudden demand for democracy.  So, not surprisingly, Christians were surprised, too.  Christians were not sure of how to respond.  Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders were originally supportive of the status quo.  On February 1, they were still supportive of the Mubarek regime.  The Orthodox Christian Pope declared that the demonstrations were not from God.

Yet, by February 9th, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox leaders were encouraging their followers to join the protests for freedom in Egypt.  Now, Christian lawyers and professionals are joining with other professionals in Egypt to draft a new constitution.  The hot wind blowing throughout Egypt these days is the wind of democratic change. While their air right now is as filled with the hope of freedom as our air will be filled with pollen in the spring, Egyptians still have a long way to go—especially Egyptian Christians.

The main point of contention in the constitution is Article 2, which states that Egypt is Islamic.  Some are insisting that the new Egypt be an Islamic Egypt.  Others are hoping that the new Egypt will be a free Egypt which will allow the Christian minority to express freedom of religion.  Christians represent about 10% of the population of Egypt.  Of that 10%, only a tiny fraction is Protestant.  Most of Egypt’s Christian population is Orthodox.

Will Christians be allowed in the new Islamic Egypt?  Christians are hoping so.  They are asking us to pray for it in fact.  As this report makes clear, Christians view the prospect of freedom of worship to be a “second miracle.”  They never dreamed of democratic freedom.  Now that it is on the horizon, might they dare dream of the freedom of religion?

A major hindrance to the freedom of religion will be the role of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Whatever some Western elites might be saying about the “new” Muslim Brotherhood, the truth of the matter is that major Islamic terrorist organizations have their roots in the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt.  Needless to say, Christians in Egypt aren’t excited about the prospect of an Egypt under their

Christians protecting Muslim Prayers

command.  Christians in Egypt admit that they have lived with the fear of the Muslim Brotherhood for the past 20 years.  They are not looking forward to 20 more years under their control. So, what role will the Muslim Brotherhood have in the new Egypt?  The verdict is still out.  Christians are praying that the future of Egypt is not given into their hands.

Finally, I mentioned the prayer protection ring earlier, and it has happened again since. The good news is that it proved reciprocal.  Christians encircled Muslims to protect them during their Friday prayers, and Muslims surrounded Christians during their Sunday worship service to protect them from the protesters.  Surely, this is a good message for all to hear concerning the potential for peace in Egypt, but it is not at all the end of the matter.  There are years and years of historical tensions between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. The future remains an open question. So, maybe it is time for us to form our own prayer circle around Egypt for the protection of the saints.

Wondering About Christians in Egypt?


In case some of you are wondering how Christians are doing in Egypt, you can follow this link to a news report that paints a grim picture.  Notice that the violence is taking place in a rural area far from Cairo.  It surely isn’t getting reported, and, according to the article, our present administration appears either disinterested or unaffected by news of the persecution of Christians in Egypt.

Indeed, the news article offers another example of what I was speaking about in Bush, Jesus, and Egypt.  There seems to be support for “democracy” without concern for humanity, or at least without concern for Christian humanity.

Bush, Jesus, and Egypt


Bush, Jesus, and Egypt: How Democrats, Republicans, and Christianity Are Doing in the Middle East
by Gregory C. Cochran

In speaking about the Democrat Party, Gov. Mitch Daniels in his recent speech to CPAC said, “Our opponents are better at nastiness than we will ever be.  It comes naturally.  Power to them is everything, so there’s nothing they won’t say to get it.”   Believe it or not, he is speaking of something fundamental to the Democrat Party—not the nastiness.  I don’t mean here either to slander the Democrat Party or exalt the Republican. I hope only to explain the difference between the two parties and, in so doing, demonstrate how the two approaches are being played out in the Middle East.  In other words, I want us to understand better the political movements in America and Egypt.  History is offering us a teachable moment through current affairs in Egypt.

Many Republicans share Gov. Daniels’ disdain for democrats, while many democrats, likewise, despise the republican tendency to resist change and to “impose” values on others.  While nastiness is not endemic to either party, the other factors—a thirst for power by democrats and an imposition of values by republicans—are quite natural to the respective political parties.

Here is what I mean. By nature, democrats support democracy, meaning democrats believe in a majority rule.  What has to happen for the democrats to rule, then, is for the democrats to be the majority.  Thus, they naturally are quite interested in public opinion.  They will gravitate toward offices and institutions (media, academia) which shape public opinion because public opinion determines the rule of law in a democracy.

Republicans, on the other hand, hold primarily to the principle of the rule of law, a principle which says that certain things are never right regardless of what 51% of the people say.  Republicans, typically, are more conservative, in the sense that they are quite interested in preserving (or conserving) traditional beliefs and instruments which have been effective in the past.  By nature, conservatives aren’t as adept at stirring up the masses like democrats because they aren’t of the opinion that their causes are right or wrong based on the percentages of people who agree with them.  They don’t need majority support, they have the constitution.

I understand that I am oversimplifying and painting with very broad strokes in these descriptions of democrats and republicans.  Yet, at root, these are valid distinctions.  They are important distinctions.  The case of the revolution in Egypt brings out these distinctions clearly.  The New York Times has an article posted concerning George W. Bush’s role in stirring up democracy in the Middle East.  Yes, even the New York Times is able to see that President Bush—against public opinion—was right to assert that democracy would catch on in the Middle East.

Bush, of course, was a Republican. Yet, he advocated for democracy in the Middle East.  The New York Times article explains that President Bush—though advocating for democracy in Iraq and throughout the Middle East—was no fan of a “mere” democracy.  A mere democracy is one in which there is actually 51% rule.  Bush opposed such “democracies” on the basis that certain principles must exist in any democracy—such as the freedom of speech, a free press, and freedom of religion.  As a result, President Bush did not recognize Hamas as a legitimate democratic government, even though they were elected by 51% of the inhabitants of Gaza.  In Bush’s understanding of a democracy, terrorists organizations could not rightly rule.  The reason, of course, was that Bush—a republican—believed in a democratic republic, not in a mere democracy.  This is what another New York Times writer meant when he said,

The left has wrongly distilled President Bush’s emphasis on democracy into emphasis on elections, or on movements free of American influence. Bush rejected both those concepts. For Bush, like Churchill, democracy was a means to enable freedom; the ballot box was not the silver bullet.

So, President Bush advocated for an American democracy, a democratic republic in which a mere majority rule is not enough for a stable government.  There are checks and balances, even for the 51% majority, and that is a very good thing.  As we know, there was once a 51% majority who thought slavery was acceptable, and there was once a 51% majority who cried, “Crucify him! Crucify him.”  Both were wrong.  Even the majority is wrong on occasion.  Inalienable rights (such as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) must be protected by law despite public opinion.

This reality brings us to the present state of Egypt.  Both democrats and republicans have applauded the freedom march of street protestors in Egypt.  Yet, both appear concerned about which direction the future march will take.  Democrats tend to lean toward accepting whatever government arises out of Egypt as a legitimate government because it is a government of the people. (I know this is oversimplifying again, but leaders in President Obama’s administration have already made statements justifying the Muslim Brotherhood as legitimate governing partners).  Republicans are sounding the alarms about the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in Egyptian governance.

The issue in Egypt (as in Iraq) is not whether 51% approve; it is whether there is a legitimate democracy.  Already, in the New York Times article mentioned above, you can see the disdain which some democrats have for placing “caveats” on democracies.  In other words, the democrat tendency is to accept majority rule, while republicans insist on basic principles of human rights to be enshrined in a constitution which does not rely on a might-makes-right, majority mentality.

Egypt’s future on (a) whether it will be a democracy and (b) exactly what kind of democracy might emerge is still an open question.  As an American—and especially as a Christian—I am quite concerned about what will happen next.  Even though there is a democracy in Iraq, for example, there is a terrible oppression of Christians there.  This post by Rich Lowry explains how, for Christians in Iraq, the democracy there has been a disaster.  Something President Bush should not applaud (at least not completely).

According to Lowry, an Iraq-type democracy in Egypt would mean “Lights Out” for Christians in the Middle East.  In one sense, his comments hit the mark precisely.  Democracy alone is not enough to preserve liberty.  Yet, in another sense, let’s hope that he is wrong.  There was once a Friday afternoon in which everything turned dark indeed for Christians from the sixth hour to the ninth hour, but three days later, there was a victory over every enemy known to man.  The light shone more brightly from that day forward. Sometimes, it seems, there may be darkness just before the dawn.  Let’s hope a new day is dawning indeed in Egypt and the Middle East.

‘Save That Sound Bite; It Might Come Back to Haunt Him’ – By Kathryn Jean Lopez – The Corner – National Review Online


Kathryn Jean Lopez interviewed Barry Rubin,Director of Global Research in International Affairs and author of 2 books concerning Egypt and Islam.  She asked him the following question. I post the question and the response so you will get an idea of what it’s like for Christians in Egypt:

Lopez: Human Rights. Christians. Democracy. Any of these winners today?

Rubin: Christians in Egypt, truth be told, are likely to lose either way. A more radical regime is likely to tolerate more attacks on them, a weak moderate one is likely to tolerate attacks so as not to set off Islamist militants. The existence of some anarchy will also endanger them.

via ‘Save That Sound Bite; It Might Come Back to Haunt Him’ – By Kathryn Jean Lopez – The Corner – National Review Online.

What Are Christians Doing in Egypt?


What about the Christians in Egypt? What are they doing during this revolution?

I forewarned (here) that the protests in Egypt might bring on more violence against Christians, and it has.  Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute details one of the latest attacks in this article.  The Barnabas Fund chronicles other hardships Christians are facing in Egypt.

Yet, the Christians are not defeated by on-going violence against them.  I thought it might be interesting for you to consider the various ways which the Christian minority in Egypt is responding to this present crisis.

According to Jordan Sekulow in this account in the Washington Post, some Christians are joining in the protests with others who are standing for democracy in Egypt.

Over at the IMB, stories are being told about avenues opening up for the spread of the gospel in the midst of what otherwise might be chaos.  Indeed, there is a long history in Christianity of turning violence into opportunity for doing the good work of spreading the gospel (see Acts 8:1-4).

And, finally, there is this incredible photograph (which you probably will not see on mainstream outlets).  It shows Christians locking hands to encircle a group of Muslims, enabling them to carry out their prayer obligations.  (The picture was posted here).  Amazing.

Christians in Egypt Making a Protective Wall so Muslims Can Pray

Coptic Christians in the Egyptian Culture Clash


This piece from GetReligion is asking the same questions we have been asking: What about the Christians in Egypt?  There are Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Christians living in Egypt.  Granted, they are a minority, but they do exist and have suffered worse than the Muslims marching in the streets.

This article from GetReligion is helpful in its links to other news coverage relating to Christians, but as the article demonstrates, there is not much coverage out there.  Particularly, it seems the New York Times must be ignorant of the presence of Christians in Egypt or completely unconcerned for their welfare.

Uh-Oh Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood Are One


Andrew McCarthy, a pretty smart guy on the spread of Islamic Jihad, asserts in this blog post that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are one and the same with deep connections (and the same mission statement).  If he is right, then the signals are going negative for the situation in Egypt. The revolution may hurt Christians even more in Egypt and, in the long run, hurt all Egyptians.