Egypt (MNN) — Today is the fifth anniversary of Egypt’s Jan. 25 revolution. And for the most part, it seems to be passing by relatively quietly, but not for the reasons you might think.
International Needs USA President and CEO Rody Rodeheaver says, “Anniversaries mean something. They mean something in our personal lives, and they certainly have great significance in the lives of a country. For a country like Egypt that has undergone incredible change in the last few years, this anniversary is very sensitive.”
Indeed, Egyptian authorities have beefed up security and simultaneously intensified a crackdown on dissent ahead of today’s anniversary of the country’s 2011 Arab Spring. Rodeheaver explains, ”There remains in the country, terrorist influences. The Muslim Brotherhood is there and would love to use the January 25 date as an opportunity to make a statement, to embarrass the government.”
Surveillance has focused on social media users, who are primarily young, pro-democracy activists inside and outside the country, including foreigners. State and private media have been urging the public not to demonstrate on Jan. 25, which is also National Police Day, arguing that protests would bring only chaos.
On top of that, enforcement has been strict on the anti-protest law, decreed in 2013 by interim President Adly Mansour. The law bans demonstrations at government buildings, and prohibits all gatherings of more than 10 people without the consent of the Interior Ministry.
Anti-terrorism legislation decreed last year by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was reaffirmed by the new Parliament shortly before the anniversary. The risk is that terrorism is so broadly defined as to what it means to “disrupt general order” or “harm national unity.” In the past, that has been challenging for Christians, as has been noted by groups like Open Doors USA or the Voice of the Martyrs USA. Rodeheaver adds, “Unfortunately, the way that these things are done is that often the Christians in these countries are singled out, are targeted. It is a time when believers around the world really need to be praying for Egypt.”
The anniversary comes at a time when the economy is not recovering as quickly as hoped, an issue that highlights el-Sissi’s promises to get the country back on track. Meanwhile, a wave of suicide bombings and militant attacks has intensified since 2013, when Muslim Brotherhood member and former president, Mohammed Morsi, was ousted. Since then, the Islamic State has claimed a majority of the suicide bombings, with restive areas like Giza, el Arish,and the Sinai Peninsula bearing the brunt.
Economically, many workers who lost their jobs during the beginning of turmoil five years ago couldn’t find new jobs, leaving many families desperate. Says Rodeheaver, “What’s happened is that people have completed university, but their skills that are needed are not the kind of skills that they learned in college.” Christians often face discrimination and are often only given the lowest paying jobs or menial labor. International Needs Egypt has come alongside them and serves the local Church in Spiritual Development, Humanitarian Aid for Refugee relief, and Community and Economic Development.
As a result, explains Rodeheaver, “There are some wonderful things that have happened within the Christian Church because the persecution has galvanized the Christian Church and brought it closer together. But because of that, they also remain a target.” To that end, “We’re praying that God will restrain the forces of evil and allow this anniversary to stand as a memorial to positive future as opposed to a time of disruption.”
A vocational training center opened last year to its first group of students. Christian and Muslim students alike are now able to learn valuable skills such as English, computers, hairdressing, air conditioner repair, computer repair, and mobile phone repair. Upon completion of the other five courses, students receive starter kids that allow them to open a business in their area of focus.
The first group of students recently completed their training and have brought their new skills into their communities. The training center has opened its doors to everyone, regardless of religion, and is delivering the message of God in a practical and tangible way.
As far as the Church itself, many pastors have little formal training. International Needs reaches out to Egyptian pastors with teaching seminars and educational materials for use in their churches. The encouragement the training provides goes a long way in a hostile environment. What’s more, the seminars are needed now, more than ever, confirms Rodeheaver. ”There seems to be a movement among the young people in Egypt, in terms of Christianity, in terms of sharing their faith, in terms of working for the cause of Christ.”
Pray for the safety of the International Needs staff and for all of the peace-loving people of Egypt. Pray that the Lord would bring His peace and protection at this very vulnerable moment. Ask God to strengthen and embolden Christians in this time of political uncertainty and give them new opportunities to share the Gospel.