Egypt (MNN) — The hot rage that fueled days of unrest in Egypt seems to be simmering at a low level now.
The rioting was blamed on an anti-Islam video, and for the next week provoked Muslims in 12 countries showed their ire. The fallout is beginning now.
Egypt's authorities are now cracking down: not on the rioters, but on those they deem responsible for setting off the whole thing. Arrest warrants have been issued, according to the nation's general prosecutor, for eight people connected with the project.
Meanwhile, a Coptic Christian has been jailed for a Facebook post defaming Islam and insulting President Mohamed Morsi.
First, says Open Doors USA spokesman Michael Woods, put things into context. "We need to understand that culture in which they're living. They don't have the freedom, the information and press like we do and the right to speak out in our own voices as we do in public."
Then, although anti-Christian violence does seem to be stemming directly from a rise in fundamentalist Islam in Egypt, understand that, "We're seeing people from Islam converting to Jesus Christ in numbers that are unprecedented. I think that means that you kind of get Islam back on its heels, seeing people convert from Islam to Christianity and this may be a reaction."
Iran has set that precedent, already. Iran's movement in Islam is closely tracked by the Middle East and North Africa. They are at the cutting edge. "I remember a couple of years ago when Ahmadinejad made a statement in one of his speeches that his biggest fear was not the military of other countries, but the rapid growth of the Church." So it's not surprising, says Wood, to see similar trends in neighboring areas.
However, the accusation against the Coptic Christian who posted to Facebook bears an eerie resemblance to accusations made in Pakistan. Wood says they're similar. "They really don't know what to do. They don't know how to respond, so the natural thing is to say ‘you're insulting Islam' and protecting what they hold dear." He goes on to say the heart of the matter is one you can see through the lens of politics. "I think that if we really saw the battle that we don't get to see on a day-to-day basis, we'd understand a better perspective of light and darkness here."
Despite the swelling tide of violence against the church, there's no wave of Christians fleeing. Egypt's believers hold fast to Christ…and to each other. "When you do have support, when you do have other people that you can lean on, and knowing that they're praying and you can worship with them, it makes a little bit of a difference to know that there's somebody else going through what you're going through."
By providing training seminars, along with Bibles and study resources for isolated pastors, Open Doors is equipping churches to stand firm in the face of persecution. They're doing it for another reason. Wood explains, "I just read recently some stats that there are more people that have come to Christ in the Middle East in the last ten years than there have been in all of Christendom combined."
Christians are staying to advance the Gospel in the face of increasing uncertainty, and they're doing it on their knees. "Pray for those believers because there is a Church. There are those people. They're just common-day mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters, and teachers and business people that have to live in that environment. To know that the Church and the Body is interceding for them, speaks volumes."