Difficult times are still ahead for Christians in Egypt. Just last week, Egypt’s highest court dissolved the country’s newly-elected Parliament to give more power to the military council. Days later, the Muslim Brotherhood declared victory in Egypt’s presidential elections. But, on Sunday evening, just as the elections were ending, the military announced a constitutional declaration that expands their power over a civilian government and grants them authority to draft a new constitution.
What does this all mean? Some speculate that an Islamist takeover was so dangerous for the country that the military had to step in—willing to risk civil war—rather than to remain passive and turn over power. Others believe that the military is simply trying to regain control by staging a potential military coup. More than likely, both reasons are true, but at stake are the very ideals that brought hundreds of thousands of Egyptians to the streets to protest authoritarian rule in Egypt’s revolution.
Bottom line: If the military were to regain power than it would be as if the revolution never happened. Some 2,000 people who were killed during the protests may have died for nothing. This scenario, however, is what many Christians are hoping for.
“Christians are happy, because they were afraid the Muslim Brotherhood was taking over,” said Athanasious Williams, a Coptic Christian human rights lawyer in Cairo. “But now they feel that there might be a better chance for a secular government.”
Islamists who have gained power since the revolution have done nothing for Christians. Instead, Christians have seen their churches burned and destroyed and many of their fellow brethren suffer from severe persecution or killed. Some recent reports from Egypt said that 200,000 Christians left or are waiting to leave Egypt due to the threats they receive on a daily basis.
But, is a military takeover worth the risk to safeguard the Christian community? Remember that a similar situation occurred in Algeria when the army staged a coup just before elections to stop the Islamic Salvation Front from gaining victory in 1991. The result: 150,000-200,000 people were killed in a decade-long civil war. Like in Algeria, Egypt’s Islamists will not back down quietly, considering that more than 50 percent of Egyptians voted for them. While Egypt will probably not break out in civil war, it is a risk the military appears to be willing to take.
Egypt needs our prayers more than ever before. Anything can happen as Islamists and the military fight for power. Like Iraq and Syria, Christians will inevitably be caught in the middle and attacks against the church will continue to increase.
“The situation is difficult in these days,” an Egyptian ministry partner recently told ICC. “Please pray for the coming days and the stabilization for our people.”
The only hope that remains, and that should remain, is in God’s provision. “We firmly believe in God’s protection in his people,” said Rev. Joseph Boules, a priest at St. Mary & St. Verena Coptic Orthodox Church. “We have that hope that we are in the hands of God.”