Almost a year ago a wave of Middle East revolutions started in Tunisia where the first regime tumbled.
Called the “Arab Spring,” repressive governments crumpled like dominoes, changing the landscape of the Middle East and North Africa forever and sending shockwaves around the world. Unfortunately for the already-minority Christian population in Muslim-dominated countries like Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, the future is all but clear. Will 2012 bring more persecution and marginalization for Christians or greater liberty to worship?
So far, the signs are not encouraging, according to Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller. “Many hail this movement of popular discontent that has toppled dictators as victory for democracy,” Moeller says. “But within Arab Spring are troubling incidents against Christians, even those in countries yet unreached by the revolutionary wave.”
For Westerners, the notion of democracy is majority and minority groups working together, each having a voice at the table. “But the model unfolding in these lands is far from Jeffersonian. A possible result is the law of mob rule, where Islamists are likely to control governments, exclude minority faiths even from police protection, and Christians live in constant terror from the clear message: There is no place here for Christians.”
Moeller adds that the current situation in Egypt, where the Islamists’ Muslim Brotherhood is holding an estimated 40 percent of the seats in the parliamentary elections so far, is a reality check for Coptic and evangelical Christians, who comprise 10 percent of the population. Hard-line Salafists are also doing well in the ongoing election. Moeller adds that "there have been significant reports of increased violence against Christians. We know Christians whose churches have been burned, and thousands who have been affected by extremist groups.
A Coptic Christian recently told a visiting team from Open Doors that “we have lived side by side with Muslims for many decades without problems, but a lot of these extremists hold very radical views and are not afraid of using violence. It feels like we are going backwards – moving in the wrong direction.” Some Christians have already left Egypt and others are preparing to leave.
Another Christian in Egypt made the following request as the visiting Open Doors team was preparing to leave saying, “Thank you for coming. It was a great encouragement and it really meant something for us. Please remember us in your prayers and ask believers in the West to pray for us. We need your prayers. We need to be one in Christ in this challenging chapter of our history. My wife and I want to stay here, but we know it will not be easy. Please, do not forget us and leave us alone.”
Father, we pray for Christians in Egypt as they live now in anticipation of an uncertain future. Give them peace in their hearts and wisdom as they live out their daily lives in fear. As the new government is formed there, we pray for Your justice to show forth that Christians might worship You freely. Protect them, Father, and give them opportunity to share Your love and truth to their neighbors - may Your name be glorified in Egypt. In the name of Christ who abounds in steadfast love, Amen.