For Coptic Christians, “the daily lurch between excitement and fear has settled into queasy uncertainty about Egypt’s future – and what it holds for followers of Christ,” The Baptist Press reports.
By Erich Bridges
5/26/2011 Egypt (Baptist Press) – For Sabri, the daily lurch between excitement and fear has settled into queasy uncertainty about Egypt’s future — and what it holds for followers of Christ.
Sabri, a white-collar worker who lives with his family in Cairo, is an evangelical Christian. When massive demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other cities sparked national demands for freedom in January, he joined many other Egyptians in hoping positive change might be coming after decades of stagnation and dictatorship.
As a member of Egypt’s embattled Christian minority, he also wondered how Islamic extremists would react to the situation.
Hope and concern, however, took a temporary back seat to terror as chaos spread. Longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak first tried to hang on to power, then lost his grip amid bloody clashes on the streets — and behind-the-scenes maneuvering among contending government factions and the military.
“There were no police on the street,” Sabri recalls of the worst moments leading up to Mubarak’s exit. “It was very scary. We had to guard our homes. We would stay up all night in the street with whatever we could carry — a bat or a piece of metal — just to defend ourselves. There were criminals and guns firing all the night. Everything was moving very fast and we didn’t know what would happen tomorrow. We didn’t know what was right or wrong [politically], so our prayer was: ‘God, whatever You think is right, we are asking for Your will to be applied.'”
Mubarak stepped down Feb. 11, unleashing a wave of euphoria among millions of young Egyptians calling for freedom. Political tensions have eased in the months since, or at least moved to other stages, as the military runs the government while the nation prepares for elections in September. World news coverage has shifted to more violent locales — such as Libya, Syria and Yemen — as movements for change continue to shake the Arab world.
What about prospects for minority Christians, who continue to suffer attacks by Muslim extremists?
The worst such incident in recent weeks occurred May 7, when a radical Muslim group, the Salafis, assaulted a Coptic Christian area of Cairo. The attack resulted in 12 deaths, at least 200 injuries and the burning of two churches. Enraged, Copts took to the streets to fight back. The Salafi movement, Coptic leaders charge, is trying to foment sectarian civil war between the Muslim majority and Coptic Christians, who comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s 83 million people.
“I would be very concerned if the Muslim Brotherhood or the extremists get power over the parliament,” Sabri warns. “If they write the new constitution, it will be more tight on us as Christians. They’re not going to do it through violence. They’ll try to do it very smoothly so they don’t lose international support.”
Some Christians don’t intend to stick around to find out which scenario plays out. They’re leaving the country, or considering it. Sabri, however, isn’t going anywhere. He’s using this historic moment to share the hope of Christ with other Egyptians.
“Muslims are asking a lot of direct questions — questions we’re not used to being asked” without years of relationship building, he says. “Now you can meet somebody in the subway and he or she wants to know the truth.”