Egypt (MNN) – Over the weekend, Egypt suffered its worst religious violence since President Morsi came to power last year.
Open Doors Minister-at-Large Paul Estabrooks says tensions had already built up. "In light of some violence that occurred just days before the weekend, there was a funeral at St. Mark's Cathedral–the Coptic orthodox cathedral–which is the home of the pope of the Coptic Church, the main cathedral for the Coptic Christian believers."
The four who were buried on April 7 had died in clashes with Muslims on April 4 in a town north of Cairo. That violence was allegedly sparked by accusations that local Christians had made offensive drawings on the wall of a local religious school.
Christians have been concerned about their situation in Egypt ever since the Arab Spring began about two years ago, says Estabrooks, adding, "It just kind of shows again that the ‘Arab Spring' has become a ‘Christian Winter.'"
Tempers flared when the funeral procession came out of the church. When it was over, Estabrooks says, "At least 80 people were wounded in these clashes, so there was obviously tremendous fighting. Six people had been killed in the violence over the weekend. It just shows that things are very challenging there."
Angry Christians say there is no protection for religious minorities. In fact, notes Estabrooks, "The Christians claim that the police actually sided with the anti-Christian demonstrators and actually fired tear gas into the church cathedral as all of this was happening."
In a conciliatory gesture, President Mohamed Morsi condemned the violence against Christians. "His quoted words were: ‘I consider any attack on the Cathedral as an attack on me, personally,'" says Estabrooks. However, the Muslim Brotherhood's political party blamed the Copts for the violence, claiming the Cathedral gathering was a preparation "for civil war."
Coptic Christians compose about 10% of Egypt's estimated 90 million people. Many fled in the early days of the Arab Spring. For those who remain, they face increasing economic and social challenges because of their Christian faith. Pray that they will see the Lord provide for their basic needs, displaying a witness of God's care to non-Christians.
Most importantly, Estabrooks comments, "Pray that God reveals to them how they should biblically respond to this challenge. It would be a great help for them." Ask God to strengthen and embolden Christians in this time of political uncertainty and give them new opportunities to share the Gospel.