Egypt (MNN) — State-run media reported early results on Egypt's constitution referendum at a 57% "yes" vote.
According to the official Web site of Egypt's state television, the strongest "no" vote was in Cairo, with 68%. Egypt's second-largest city, Alexandria, showed a more surprising result. Last year, January 1, a Coptic Church there was bombed by militants. 23 people died in that attack. It began a year of turmoil for Egypt's Christians. Yet, 56% of the voters agreed to ratify the Sharia-based charter.
The country's deep division can be seen in the early results, and there's a second round of votes to be cast on Saturday, December 22. Opposition leaders are calling for national protests Tuesday, alleging improprieties.
SAT-7 Egypt director Farid Garas spoke on the subject in an interview with MNN affiliate KCBI. First, he says, "The problem of the constitution is not just for Christians but for a lot of people in Egypt–including liberals, including a lot of Muslims who think that this constitution is not better than the previous one."
SAT-7 is a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa. Their team has been adjusting live programming to address the issues with biblical wisdom rather than politics. In fact, Garas says Egyptian Coptic Christians are showing unity. "Christians are getting together with Muslim brothers to pray and seek God for what's best for the country."
Two years ago this week, a fruit vendor in Tunisia burned himself to death, which set into motion the events that became known as the ‘Arab Spring.' It was a sweeping call for change that began in Tunisia, spread to Algeria, then Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Iraq, Bahrain, Libya and Kuwait.
Tens of thousands protested in each country, and many of those Arab countries are still dealing with the turmoil of uprisings. In Egypt, the first wave of the uprising led to the downfall and ouster of then-President Hosni Mubarak.
He was replaced by a military government and the promise of a new constitution. A year later, there were concerns the military would not surrender power. Then came the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, elections, President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist tilt, a new Sharia-based constitution, and all along the way, more and more demonstrations with increasing violence.
In the midst of the upheaval, Egypt's Coptic Church lost Pope Shenouda III. He was replaced by Pope Tawadros II. As the Christians looked to their pope for guidance, he took a different tact than Shenouda did and withdrew from the politics.
However, Tawadros II encouraged all Egyptians to take part in a public referendum on the nation's new constitution. Egyptians had hoped for a constitution that represented all Egyptians, but the draft version adopted was heavily Islamist. None of the Christian members of Parliament were present in the vote.
That's why it becomes especially critical for Christians to take part since there are so many concerns about the draft, says Garas. "It's very loose in some points and it's not with liberty; it doesn't give people the freedom of religion as they are supposed to. A lot of text was not clear."
In advance of the first round of voting, thousands of believers from across Egypt's churches gathered at the Cave Church to pray for their nation again. It was there that Garas observed changes in Egyptian churches. "The first thing is that Christians (as well as other Egyptians) broke the boundaries of fear. The second thing is that they were able to go out of the walls of the Church and speak the truth, demonstrate, and share with other Egyptians in asking for their rights."
Walls were coming down. The body of Christ began to unify. Garas commented that televising the Night of Prayer encouraged participation worldwide and invited them to pray for Egypt in the process. "We feel that there is guidance from God that the first thing is we get together, then we start to be united, then we can be a servant to the whole nation."
It's a crucial response in a season of change for Egypt. "We see on the social media, on the television, on the newspapers (that) a lot of young people are losing hope, are not believing in God anymore. We pray that God would reveal Himself to many these days. "
As the body of Christ in the Middle East begins to see revival, Garas urges prayer. "The first point: we want to pray for a victorious church, not for a protective and reactive church. The second thing we want to pray for: protection for Christians and also for Egyptians, because we can see the devil moving. "