Egypt: opportunity for the gospel as believers urge 'we need your prayers'
As the world waits to see how the political upheaval in Egypt will pan out, Christians in the country are calling on believers in the UK and Ireland to uphold them in prayer ...
As the world waits to see how the political upheaval in Egypt will pan out, Christians in the country are calling on believers in the UK and Ireland to uphold them in prayer.
Islamist hard-liners have attacked Christian churches and villages following the downfall of President Morsi. But Egypt’s Christians see this tumultuous time in their country’s history as an opportunity for the gospel – and are asking Christians around the world to stand with them in prayer.
UK-based Release International serves the Persecuted Church in 30 nations, including Egypt.
"This is more than just a political revolution," said a Release partner in Cairo. "Egypt is at a turning point to Jesus and Christians here need spiritual support for this. Please tell every church and Christian: 'We need your prayers'."
Hard-liners angry over President Morsi's removal from power have already attacked churches and Christian property. Reports of attacks began to surface just hours after the Egyptian army announced that it had removed from office the Muslim Brotherhood-backed premier and his cabinet.
Release chief executive Paul Robinson said: "Christians in Egypt are facing a huge challenge at the moment – to share the Christian gospel at a time of violence and unrest. Yet this very unrest may in fact be creating a fertile opportunity for the gospel which we Christians in the West have a duty to uphold with prayer."
Morsi supporters and militants have broadcast public threats against Christians on TV and on the internet, accusing them of complicity with the military and 'secularists' in Morsi's downfall.
Some radical Islamists are blaming Christians for the coup, which they portray as a war against Islam. Even some mainstream politicians have made threats against Christians on TV. International observers fear the violence could ignite a civil war between hard-line Islamists and secularists. If so, Egypt’s Christians could increasingly find themselves in the firing line, just as Christians in Syria.
Supporters of Mr Morsi have been linked to the murder of a church leader in Northern Sinai, amid the growing civil unrest. Mina Aboud Sharween was shot dead on Saturday as he walked in the Masaeed area of El Arish.
Last Wednesday, a pro-Morsi crowd attacked Al Eslah Church and St George's Church in Delgia village in Minya province. A Christian minister narrowly escaped with his life when rioters set light to his church: Muslim neighbours hid him from the mob, which also attacked Christian properties in the area.
Other Christian targets were attacked in Qena and Marsa Matrouh. Worst hit was Naga Hassan village, west of Luxor. Rioting on Friday, reportedly triggered by a row between a Muslim and a Christian, resulted in the killing of four Christians and the destruction of some 20 homes. Police have reportedly asked Christians in the village to leave their homes until peace is restored.
Also on Friday, police are said to have warned church leaders in Cairo to be vigilant for car bombs, and told them to watch out for cars with particular number plates.
Call to prayer
"Please pray that God will protect and sustain Christians in Egypt in this time of mounting unrest," says Paul Robinson, of Release. "Pray that they will know the reality of his peace, and for an end to the violence. And let’s join them in their prayers that this will be a real moment of opportunity to share the gospel of peace with those around them."
Through its international network of missions Release International serves persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries around the world, by supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.