Christians vulnerable in Egypt turmoil
On Wednesday 3 July the Egyptian military ousted the country's first democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi, and placed him under 'house arrest'. Tanks moved into Cairo, the Parliament was dissolved and the Constitution was suspended. Whilst the military ousted Morsi in pursuit of its own interests, it did so under the cover of anti-Morsi protests, all but guaranteeing that Morsi's civilian opponents will suffer the reprisals.
No soft target so clearly represents opposition to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as the Coptic Church, making it exceptionally vulnerable. The Coptic Pope compounded this vulnerability when he blessed the coup and supported the suspension of the Constitution. On Friday 5 July MB leader Mohamed Badie addressed a gathering of tens of thousands of justifiably enraged Islamists outside the Rabaa al-Adweya Mosque in Nasr City, Cairo. He slammed the Coptic Pope, condemned the coup and called on Muslims to rise up and not stop fighting until Morsi was returned to office.
UPPER EGYPT: On Wednesday 3 July Islamists in Minya Governorate attacked the evangelical church in el-Saleh, injuring two. In Delgia village dozens of Christian homes were looted at gunpoint and burned by Muslim rioters chanting anti-Christian slogans. Delgia's Coptic Church of St George was set ablaze. The priest survived only because his Muslim neighbours pulled him out of the inferno through a hole he'd made in the roof and gave him refuge. Most Christians have now fled the area. Further south in Qena, Islamic rioters attempted to attack the main Coptic cathedral but were repelled by the military. The rioters then looted and ransacked Coptic homes and businesses. Most Christians have now fled this area. On Saturday 6 July Christians in the village of Nag Hassan in Luxor Governorate came under attack from a Muslim mob; four people were murdered and three others injured while 16 Coptic homes and businesses were torched. The Church of the Virgin Mary was also attacked; most Christians have now fled this area too.
MEDITERRANEAN COAST: On 3 July the military repelled Muslim rioters who were stoning the Church of Holy Virgin in the coastal resort city of Marsa Matrouh, 240km west of Alexandria. On 9 July gunmen opened fire on the Mar Mina Church in Port Said (at the mouth of the Suez Canal); no casualties were reported.
SINAI: On 4 July at least two explosions were heard in the Israeli city of Eilat on the Red Sea. Remnants were found of a Grad rocket believed to have been fired by jihadists in the Sinai, Egypt. On 5 July the military opened fire on Morsi supporters who were demonstrating during Friday prayers in the coastal city of el-Arish, North Sinai, wounding at least 21. Jihadists immediately retaliated, expelling the military and raising the black flag of al-Qaeda. Salafi jihadist group, Salafiyya al Jihadiyya, slammed the 'crime' and announced the formation of a new group, Ansar al Sharia in Egypt, which it said was acqu iring weapons and preparing to fight. The next day, gunmen on a motorbike shot dead a Coptic priest, Mena Aboud Sharoben (39), as he was walking through the Masaeed area in el-Arish.
Just the beginning
Whilst the military may have ousted an Islamist President, dissolved a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Parliament and suspended an Islamised Constitution, these actions have actually increased the risk to Egyptian Christians. Military violence - such as the army's firing on pro-Morsi demonstrators in Cairo on Monday 8 July, killing 51 and wounding more than 300 - is only further inflaming the situation. The coup will serve to radicalise many MB supporters, especially as Islamic groups from Tunisia to Somalia are citing the coup as proof that democracy does not work and that Islam can be established only by the bullet not the ballot. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri (an Egyptian) has ominously warned: 'The battle in Egypt is far from over, it has only just begun.'
Please pray specifically that God will:-
- pour out his Holy Spirit abundantly on the Church in Egypt, so that the fears of Christians would be calmed and so they will trust the Lord for their every need. 'I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.' (Psalm 121:1,2 ESV)
- shield, protect, sustain and deliver all who look to him in faith. 'Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me.' (Psalm 57:1,2 ESV)
- use the present troubles to awaken Arabs not merely to the fact that Islam is not the solution, but to the truth that the solution and empowerment for transformation are found in Jesus Christ.