Egypt (MNN) — Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb – the Grand Imam of a famous mosque – is calling on Egyptian Muslims to “embrace” their Christian neighbors. He issued the edict during a televised ceremony in Abu Dhabi.
To David Curry of Open Doors USA, it’s a step in the right direction.
“It doesn’t mean that we can say that Egypt has changed its stripes [or] that somehow all is well and we don’t have to worry about Christians in Egypt anymore,” he notes.
“But I think we’re seeing good things and we need to be thankful for it.”
Egyptian persecution and progress
Open Doors monitors Christian persecution around the world and works at a local level to help persecuted believers. They publish the World Watch List each year, which ranks each country according to its level of Christian persecution.
Egypt is one of the top 20 worst persecutors this year, primarily due to radical groups and an Islamic society that discourages non-Muslim beliefs. Coptic Christians comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s population and continue to be the primary targets of terrorists like the Islamic State.
However, Curry observes, there are several encouraging signs. The imam’s recent edict is one of them. “Sometimes, I’m put in the position of always giving bad news, but I’m happy when I can say I think Egypt is taking steps in the right direction,” he states.
“The government wants to include, has made steps over the last three or four years to include, Christians in their society.”
For example, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb both attended the opening ceremony of the region’s largest Coptic Christian church in January. The cathedral was allegedly built with government funding, and al-Tayeb said in a televised speech that “if Islamic law requires Muslims to protect mosques, it equally requires Muslims to protect churches.”
Now that you know, what can you do? Prayer’s a good place to start. Ask the Lord to strengthen His people in Egypt, and help them overcome hardship.
“I think it’s important for American Christians to see Egypt as the epicenter of what God wants to do in the Arab world.”
Header image is a representative photo courtesy Open Doors USA.