By Neisha Roberts
The Alabama Baptist
During what is known as the Egyptian revolution of 2011, cities like Cairo and Alexandria were described as “war zones.” Violent clashes between police and protestors, who urged the end of then-president Hosni Mubarak’s regime, ended in the death of 846 people. More than 6,000 people were injured.
Through a series of events, Mubarak resigned from leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood took power with new Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. But because Morsi tried to impose strict Islamic law, he was opposed and ousted in 2013.
Egyptians had hoped for something better with new leadership but ended up with something worse. Churches were attacked; Christians were threatened, discriminated against and sometimes killed; and many felt forced to flee the country for their safety and survival.
And in 2014 former minister of defense Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was elected president, which helped diminish the violence but did little for the acceptance of the Christian community.
Today Egypt ranks No. 21 on Open Doors’ World Watch List of the most dangerous and highly persecuted countries in the world.
For Christians in Egypt, “those three years (of revolution) were very difficult because God was shaking the whole country,” according to Michael, an Egyptian ministry partner with Open Doors, a nonprofit, nondenominational group serving persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries. But the crisis also ignited a flame of unity in the Church, he said.
During the month of March, Michael — whose name has been changed for security reasons — met with several pastors and churches throughout Alabama, Tennessee and Florida to share about the Church in Egypt. He also was a featured guest on Priority Talk Radio, Birmingham’s daily live Christian radio talk show on WXJC 92.5 FM.
“The Church found a God-given peace to not fight back (when it was persecuted),” Michael shared with listeners March 17 on Priority Talk Radio.
He shared how members of one church in Egypt took the ashes from their burned-down church building and wrote on a wall nearby, “God is love” and “We forgive.”
Many of those Christians were asked by the media how they could forgive while still being attacked, Michael said. “This was the time when Christians were able to testify and simply say that it’s not about us but it’s about our God who taught us the exact model of how to love and forgive.”
The revolution and tumult might have been seen by those outside the country as some of the darkest days for the Church of Egypt, but Michael said, “We don’t see them as that. We see them as we were given the microphone.”
He said much of the disdain toward Christians comes from misunderstanding Christianity.
Many radical Muslims don’t know “the reality of our message … and get all kinds of bad ideas about the Christian faith.”
“They don’t understand the Trinity and think we serve three gods and that our Bible is corrupt,” Michael said. “So they generate rejection rather than willingness to know or learn.”
Despite their dismissal of Christians, many Muslims are seeing God in a way that is a cultural norm in much of the Arab world — through dreams and visions, he noted.
“(Believers in Egypt) have been taking a tough journey, not just over the last several years. But we realized that the last several years are not a season of distress and agony but a season of harvest,” Michael said. “This is a time when many eyes are opened and seeking the gospel.”
And although persecution has been painful, both physically and emotionally, in some ways it has become a blessing, Michael said.
As Christians have been neglected by the government, turned away from jobs and ostracized in many ways by society, it has drawn the Church to a place where there’s nothing left to do but pray. In November 2011 more than 45,000 Christians gathered to do just that for 12 hours straight. The prayer gathering served as a marker, at least in Michael’s mind, as the beginning of a new season for the Church.
Since that time there have been several large and small prayer gatherings among Christians throughout Egypt, he said.
“This is not easy because we are faced with aggressive issues every day. We get frequent attacks on churches and suicide bombings.” But Christians in Egypt should not live in fear, Michael said.
Salt and light
“If we stop sending our light out what is different about us? If we keep our hope for us and imprison ourselves in our churches what is different about us? We are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. … We need to join hands together and remind one another that we have a strong testimony and the solution for the desperation and hopelessness in this world … because we are reflecting the light of our Master.”
He asked that Christians around the world not pray for persecution to end, because all “those who want to live in righteousness will be persecuted. We don’t want to pray for the persecution to stop.”
“We need prayers for our perseverance, to spend the rest of our journey focused on God’s kingdom and inspired by the Holy Spirit on a daily basis so that every Christian, in spite of pressure and attacks, will continue to shine.”
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