As Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak remained in power and anti-government protesters continued to occupy Tahrir Square at the beginning of the third week of deadly demonstrations, discussions between the government and opposition groups appeared at an impasse.
Having expressed support for an “orderly transition,” President Obama said Feb. 7, “Obviously, Egypt has to negotiate a path and they’re making progress.”
What concerns some Baptists and other Christians is what might happen when Mubarak steps aside.
“Whether President Mubarak stays until the end of this term in September or not is a question today,” wrote Mounir Yaqub, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Cairo, in an e-mail newsletter sent Feb. 4 to EthicsDaily.com and others.
“However, a more important question for us is, who will come after him?” said Yaqub, who is also vice president of the Egyptian Baptist Convention, which holds membership in the European Baptist Federation.
“Pray that the leadership that comes after Mubarak will give more freedom for the Egyptian church and grant us the right to carry on the great commission freely,” wrote Yaqub. “Pray that we may have wisdom to discern when and how to interact with the government in the coming period.”
Australian Baptist leader Rod Benson noted on his Feb. 6 blog that protesters wanted free elections, freedom of speech and less corruption.
“[W]hat is envisaged by many protesters (or at least seen as preferable to the status quo) is not a Western-style secular democracy but one influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood and shaped by hard-line Islamic principles,” wrote Benson. “That does not auger well for Egypt’s Christian population, or for human rights.”
Benson, an ethicist with the Tinsley Institute at Morling College, is an EthicsDaily.com columnist and an active member of the Baptist World Alliance.
According to Catholic News Service, Issam Bishara, vice president for Pontifical Mission activities in Egypt, said, “Though some of the primary opposition leaders in this revolt appear to be modern secular reformers, church leaders believe the main engine fueling and organizing the demonstrators is the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Bishara said, “They fear that the brotherhood intends to seize power through future elections, compromising all patriotic and ideological parties participating in the protests.”
He said that Egypt’s Coptic Christians, Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Latin, Maronite and Melkite Greek Catholics “all fear a fate similar to that of Iraq’s Christians,” which have been “marginalized and exposed to the terror of Islamic extremists and criminals.”
Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, called on demonstrators “to end protests.”
Speaking to state-run Egyptian Radio and Television, he warned against “a deteriorating security situation.”
Shenouda told Mubarak a week ago of the support of Coptic Christians.
Pastor Yaqub shared in his e-newsletter some of the expressions of anxiety among his congregants, but he also pointed out a positive experience.
“One of the positive things that we gained through these tough days was getting closer with our Muslim neighbors,” said Yaqub. “After the police disappeared and the chaos started, we had to stand together to watch and protect our homes and neighborhoods and that was the first time after years of tension between Muslims and Christians.”