Egypt (MNN) — Hundreds of Christians demonstrated near a
large Cairo slum, following the shooting death of a Christian man this
Tensions are roiling over with the lack of security in the
wake of both the blatant shooting and a New Year's Day deadly suicide bombing
of a church.
Open Doors USA President and CEO Dr. Carl Moeller says this
is part of the alarming surge of violence they've seen targeting
believers. And it's likely to get
worse. "Islam has called upon holy
warriors to use Christians as legitimate targets."
On Tuesday, an off-duty police officer who boarded a train in
southern Egypt shot and killed one man and wounded five other Christians. The
attacker was later apprehended.
The incident poked at a long festering wound reopened by
the New Year bombing. Believers are made
to feel like second-class citizens in their own country due to widespread
discrimination. Moeller explains,
"Christians are seen by many extremists in this society as a parasite. It's time that the Egyptian government and the world stood up and said,
‘Enough is enough. We will not allow extremists to dictate the level of
violence in our country like this.'"
This week, the Pope demanded better protection for the
vulnerable Christians, citing attacks in Iraq and Nigeria. Egypt responded by recalling its ambassador
to the Vatican. However, the attention
drawn to the issue by the strength of the politics is welcome. "We're very grateful, actually, that the Pope
is taking the persecution of Christians seriously," says Moeller. "It's a question to us that the Protestant
community is not nearly as vocal when it comes to our brothers and sisters in
Christ being murdered."
Not that the political avenue is the only way Open Doors
advocates. Moeller adds, "We, of course,
believe prayer for our brothers and sisters around the world who are persecuted
is the number one tool at our disposal. But we also have to use the exposure of
the media and the opportunity to engage the political dynamic."
The heart of the issue is the balance of power. "This is the flashpoint in the Middle East: the
conversion of Muslims to Christianity," Moeller notes. "That is one of the greatest incentives to
these extremists to exterminate Christians."
With the threat of violence hanging overhead, what kind
of impact does that have on church planters or on outreach? Moeller admits it does cause some to go deep
underground. The violence is definitely
disruptive and has forced some churches to go into a survival mode and not be
as open about following Christ.
However, he hastens to add that "despite the chilling
effect that these violent episodes have had, the faith of these Christians left
behind is not destroyed. It's not that
they're fleeing Christ — they're actually clinging to Christ."
That tenacious hold to Christ attracts curiosity. Curiosity leads to finding out more about who
Christ is and why these people are willingly putting themselves in harms'
way. As a result, "We're seeing the
churches growing in the Middle East," says Moeller. "That's the paradox of persecution. Wherever you see persecution taking place, we know the church is growing
You can support the persecuted church in Egypt through
Open Doors. There are more details here.