Egypt (MNN) — The following prayer request showed up innocently enough on The Voice of the Martyrs USA Facebook page: “Our workers in Egypt request urgent prayer for the next few days: There are real threats to attack churches and Christians by the extremists on Dec. 31, and also during the Feast celebration (Jan. 6 and 7). These threats are coming from the Muslim brotherhood group…. Please pray.”
A day later, the headlines read, “Egypt arrests dozens under new anti-terrorism law,” which was followed by news of fresh deadly clashes between police and Muslim Brotherhood-supporters across Egypt, following the close of Friday prayers.
Authorities have cracked down on the Brotherhood since July, when Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who belongs to the group, was deposed by the army. Clashes continued as did the anarchy spreading throughout the country. Finally, the military government formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization on December 25.
David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, explains, “[The Muslim Brotherhood has] been doing a lot of bombings at police stations and so forth. This gives their military the ability to do some crowd control that maybe they couldn’t in another designation.”
The drastic political changes that Egypt has passed through since then have eventually caused more attacks by radical Muslim groups and pro-Muslim Brotherhood activists against many Christians.
Now believers are wary, more than ever, about gathering to celebrate Christmas. Unlike the western world celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25, most Egyptian Christians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, following the eastern Coptic calendar. “There’s no doubt that Christians are going to go through a very difficult season. We know that believers in Egypt, over the next couple of weeks, are in grave danger when they go to church,” notes Curry.
Gathering together in one place makes them an easy target, and 2013 has not been an easy year for the Church. Obviously, Curry says, “It’s going to be a very serious situation because the Muslim Brotherhood has always targeted Christian communities in Egypt whenever they want to lash out, and they can’t do so at the government.”
It will also be the third anniversary after the attack on the Coptic church of the Two Saints in Alexandria during the New Year’s Eve celebration on Dec. 31, 2010. A bomb went off just after midnight outside the church, killing 23 Christians who were peacefully greeting each other for the arrival of the New Year. Almost 100 Christians were injured.
Currently there are reports of massive prayer vigils, evangelism conferences, and more where thousands gather under high security. That’s not really a surprise, says Curry. “Egypt has the largest population of Christians in the Middle East. I think what you’re seeing there is more recognizable to what we might see in the West, where they have a vibrant church.”
Did you catch that? In spite of everything else, the Gospel is going forward and churches are discipling new Christians. That’s the good news, explains Curry. “What we’re seeing is a maturity of the Egyptian Church under pressure. These are people who love God and in distress have turned to Him. The churches are growing stronger.”
The bad news: oppression isn’t letting up any time soon. What they’re engaged in is spiritual warfare. “Until January 6, they’re still going to be in their Christmas season, and they are going to be targets,” says Curry. “Pray for Egyptian believers throughout this season.”
Pray for an end to violent unrest and for true freedom to be established. Pray that the Church unites in sharing the Gospel. Pray for Open Doors partners working with local churches to provide training and Christian community development opportunities.