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Arab Spring 'a mixed blessing' for Church says mission specialist

The Arab Spring could prove to be a mixed blessing for Christian mission and the Church in Egypt, says the head of Interserve, Steve Bell ...

The Arab Spring and the fight for democracy in Egypt has significant implications for the Church in the countries affected by it – particularly Egypt, said Steve Bell, the head of mission agency Interserve.

Speaking at this year’s Keswick Convention, he said that the Egyptian troubles had affected not only the relationships within the churches, but also between those of different faiths.

"God is at work in the Egyptian church, as Coptic Orthodox and Evangelicals – long divided by historic animosity – have come together to pray and fast for the nation."

And he also quoted Christian scholar Chawkat Moucarry, who said: "I am glad that Christians and Muslims are together fighting for democracy in Egypt and Syria." Speaking of the news coverage on the demonstrations in Takhir Square, Steve Bell said that many banners had both the Islamic crescent – and the cross.

However, he warned that the overthrow of oppressive regimes will not automatically bring a brighter future.

"It is potentially a mixed blessing as the repressive regimes also repressed the salafi extremists and criminals, who are now being released to differing degrees on society and minorities such as culturally Christian communities, who feel insecure in the short-term."

Commenting on the current battles in Syria, he added, "It is a trauma the nation has to go through in order to be free. The UN must be highly frustrated with the current abstainers, and it shows their true colours. It has been a brutal regime for the last sixty years, and we need to keep praying for them."
What can we learn from the discipline of Muslims?

In Steve Bell’s view, the spiritual discipline shown by Muslims is not all bad. He spoke of a woman who had become a follower of Jesus from a Muslim background, and said that she had asked how many times a day she should pray now.

He asked his audience: "Do you think we should lean the other way, and say, pray when you like? Or can we let that discipline rub off on us, and perhaps meet in the middle? What aspects of Islam can be reoriented to the way of Christ?"
The Keswick Convention runs for three weeks each summer, and ends on 3 August. It is expected to attract around 15,000 people of all ages.

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