Many of us involved in Christian ministry in Egypt are appalled at the misunderstandings about the situation in Egypt being propagated by even normally balanced international media like the BBC, and the way it has, in general, portrayed the Muslim Brotherhood as the victims of injustice.
So, on behalf of myself, Ramez Atallah (general secretary for the Bible Society of Egypt), Pastor Fayez Ishaq (part of the leadership team at Kasr El Dubarrah Evangelical Church), other ministry leaders in Egypt and the leadership of Middle East Concern, please allow me to paint a bigger picture of what has been going on the past year or so.
Yes, former President Mohamed Morsi was elected “democratically” in June 2012, but only by the slimmest of majorities and only 13 million people (out of a total population of 83 million) voted for Morsi at all. And yet he took this as a mandate to do as he wanted, with a winner-takes-all attitude.
His new government was not inclusive and he quickly appointed former Muslim Brotherhood leaders (some with previous convictions for violence or incitement to violence) to serve as regional governors or government ministers.
In November 2012, he illegally gave himself new sweeping powers to act without censure and rushed through a new pro-Islamic constitution despite the protests and boycotts from liberals, moderate Muslims and Christians, and then he refused to call for new elections – as had previously been agreed to do after a new constitution had been adopted.
And, of course, the economy was very poorly managed by the new ministers, whose only apparent qualification for office was the fact that they were Muslim Brotherhood loyalists.
By the end of 2012, the country’s infrastructure had begun to fall apart, electricity and fuel supplies became unreliable, prices for basic commodities soared and Egypt struggled to get much needed international financing.
By June 30, 2013, on the first anniversary of Morsi’s election to office, the Egyptian people had had enough.
Perhaps as many as 30 million people came out to demonstrate against Morsi continuing in office – this included many who had voted for Morsi a year before, and even if the figure of 30 million cannot be independently verified, it is clear that the number of people on the street were far more than the number of people who had ever voted for Morsi.
But, unlike the president of any normal democracy, he refused to go or even seek a renewed mandate through new elections, confirming to many that the Muslim Brotherhood was just using the new democracy in Egypt to establish a theocracy.
In a situation like this, the last line of defense for democracy is the army. They alone have the power to restart the democratic process and, by (very) popular demand and with due notice, the army did step in and remove the former president – to the absolute delight and relief of most Egyptians.
In the past six weeks, the Muslim Brotherhood has occupied a number of public spaces to demonstrate for the reinstatement of the former president (currently being held by the army and facing charges related to abuse of power, including substantial material and intelligence support to Hamas).
Unlike the peaceful occupation of Tahrir Square by demonstrators in January 2011, and again at the end of June 2013, these Muslim Brotherhood occupations were dominated by calls for violence against the army, the police, the liberals and, specifically, the Coptic Christians in Egypt – all resulting in the violence witnessed on Aug. 14 when police stations, hospitals, private and public property were destroyed.
Many Christian churches (at least 40 so far), homes and businesses were also attacked as well as a monastery, three religious societies, three key bookshops belonging to the Bible Society in Egypt, three Christian schools and an orphanage.
The Coptic Orthodox Pope, Tawadrous II, made a statement about the attacks on churches this week, saying that “this had been expected and, as Egyptians and Christians, we are considering our church buildings as a sacrifice to be made for our beloved Egypt.”
Other church leaders have made similar statements, stressing that church buildings don’t make the church but the church is the Body of Christ, made of people who have their faith in him, and that is getting stronger as it passes through these challenging times.
It is also important and encouraging to note that some Muslims went to protect churches and that, in return, many Christians then sent messages to their fellow Muslim citizens saying, “buildings can be rebuilt again, but you are priceless, so stay safe, and don’t worry about the churches.”
And the Egyptian government also announced yesterday that the state would take the financial responsibility for the rebuilding of damaged churches.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been and remains very effective in portraying themselves as the victims to the media, pointing to how Morsi had been “democratically” elected and that the army “coup” was a major setback to the country’s democratic progress.
They have known what buttons to push with the Western press and this seems to be the version that most of the world is hearing, but it is not a version of truth that resonates with the vast majority of Egyptians.
And, while the loss of life these past few days has been most regrettable, it has not only been Muslim Brotherhood supporters that have died, and there has been scant reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to destabilize Egypt, its calls for violence against the government and its supporters; and there has been a total lack of reporting concerning weapons that the Brotherhood had in the camps and used against the army as it sought to dismantle the sit-ins.
In closing, can I ask for your prayers for this important country – the largest in the Arab world, with the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Please pray that:
â— The current violence will end soon
â— The effective rule of law and order will be re-established for the benefit of all citizens
â— There will be effective protection of church and other property against attacks by extremists
â— Egypt will be governed for the benefit of all its citizens, with people of different persuasions able to live alongside one another peaceably
â— Egyptian Christians will have the opportunity to play an increasingly prominent and effective role in addressing the needs of all Egyptians and helping to bring healing and reconciliation in the country.
SAT-7 broadcasts satellite television programming that seeks to transform the Middle East through hope in Jesus Christ and is a partner organization of American Baptist International Ministries and BMS World Mission.