Egypt (MNN) – Some scholars believe Egypt’s continued onslaught of violence against Christians could be the worst in 700 years. And it’s not over yet. Greg Mussleman is a spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs Canada. “Talking to those that are plugged in well on what’s going on. They believe that the violence, the destruction, and the assault on the Christian community, will continue for at least several more years.”
The recent headline news may bear that out. It seems like every Friday, after Muslim prayers end, there are riots and protests that erupt among members of the Muslim Brotherhood. A sudden burst of unpredictable violence lurks just beneath the surface, similar to that of 3 July.
The target? Christians. Coptic Church leaders are trying to keep a lid on the tensions. They’re encouraging calm and talking about peace, unity and forgiveness. The most obvious reason behind the message, says Mussleman is that, “When people react with violence against violence (which is totally understandable), it just leads to more violence.”
Easier said than done. The Islamist takeover of a town in Egypt has Christians drowning in fear. Dalga’s takeover followed the ouster of the country’s president, Mohamed Morsi. On 3 July, Morsi’s Islamist supporters attacked Christians, their homes and businesses in the southern Minya province.
Radicals have yet to leave, promising defiance of the military-backed leadership that has replaced him, and successfully stopping army attempts to send in armored personnel carriers.
Trouble in Sinai could mean a second insurgency could erupt in Minya and Assiut provinces, home to two of the biggest Christian communities in Egypt, while at the same time a foothold for the Islamists. Mussleman considers, “That’s very much possible. You’ve got the Muslim Brotherhood who are not going to sit down and say ‘Ok. I guess we lost this thing. We’re going to forget about it.’ No. That’s not what they’re thinking about.” The problem is that in the security vacuum, it has been Christians largely paying the price. He explains, “Of course we’ve seen dozens of churches destroyed, Christian businesses destroyed, homes destroyed–a lot of intimidation. There’s a lot of fear right now because even the military and police say they can’t adequately protect them.”
While the constitution allows for freedom of conversion, in practice, discrimination is commonplace. What’s more, waiting for a new constitution puts things in limbo. With things as bad as they are for Christians, Mussleman wonders, “Who knows what’s going to be happening two months from now? People are leaving. There’s a lack of trust in what’s going to happen there.” He goes on to add that with the mass exodus of Christians fleeing Egypt, “Who knows how many will be left to vote, or to think at this point in time there’s any reason to even be involved in the constitutional process?”
And yet, there’s opportunity. “In the middle of all this, there’s also been an incredible expression of forgiveness by Christians in places like Minya, south of Cairo. We’re seeing where they are actually writing on their destroyed churches ‘We forgive you.'” The open-handed extension of forgiveness to those who have pulverized their communities speaks volumes for the Christ they follow. It takes guts to speak His name, though, in an atmosphere where you can be killed by a mob just for wearing a cross or being identified as a Christian.
That’s where you come in. “Be praying that they will be strong, that they will not be ruled by fear, but they would use wisdom. And also (be praying) that the Christians, in large masses, would exhibit forgiveness.”
Pray God will strengthen and embolden Christians in this time of political uncertainty and give them new opportunities to share the gospel.