"Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.'
— Matthew 2:13
For many centuries Egyptians have been proud that when God's Son needed refuge, he came to their land for shelter and security.
Today, as the bright sunshine of the Arab Spring is being overshadowed by darkening clouds of the Arab Fall, many Christians and moderate Muslims are seeking to flee from Egypt for freedom.
You will undoubtedly have heard that the Islamists have made significant gains in the recent first round of parliamentary elections. This was expected but has, nevertheless, discouraged many who made great efforts to vote and somehow hoped that the non-Islamist candidates and parties would have made greater gains. Nonetheless, many believe that the next two rounds of elections will not be as favorable for the Islamists. A host of smaller parties are joining forces to counteract the Islamist takeover.
Many wonder why the Islamist parties have gotten a majority of the votes. Here are a couple possible possible reasons:
- The recent Egyptian revolution was against the oppression of President Mubarak's regime, so it is logical that people would want to vote for those who were most oppressed by the former government.
- A more convincing argument is that the Islamists have campaigned on only one issue: restoring Egypt to God's laws. Since Egyptians are some of the most religious people in the world, this platform has tremendous appeal with the masses that trust these leaders to provide them with a decent life and help them get to heaven.
Before you claim that this is naïve, think of how keen Christians in your country are to vote for a Christian candidate!
God at Work
Rather than focus on the many economic, social, political, cultural, and religious problems that Egyptians are struggling with, I want to share with you some remarkable news of unprecedented breakthroughs for the gospel.
- My wife, Rebecca, began ministering 29 years ago with an unknown Coptic priest who was serving the despised and neglected garbage collectors of Cairo. On November 11 the largest prayer meeting in the history of the Middle East took place at the Garbage Village's Cave Church complex when more than 50,000 people from all denominations and all walks of life met to pray for Egypt. We are hearing dozens of stories of healings and spiritual transformation that took place among those who attended this 12-hour event or even among those who watched it on satellite TV. With all the sanctified imagination she could muster, Rebecca could not have conceived such an event when she first began ministering with Father Simon.
- During the recent fighting in the vicinity of Liberation Square, the nearby hospital was damaged. Kasr El Doubara Evangelical Church, which is also nearby, established a "hospital" on its premises that was manned, among others, by Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood doctors and nurses. This event as picked up by the media, and Islamists told media in interviews how welcome and loved they felt serving in that church hospital.
- I recently attended the opening service for a church around the corner from my home. This is the first time since the 1950s that a Protestant church has opened in the suburb where I live.
- Last month the Bible Society bought a shop in the Giza district of Cairo (which has 7 million inhabitants and 115 churches). We are renovating it as a Bible bookshop, the first in Giza.
- Last week we finished rebuilding the roof of the new Bible Society national distribution center and are hoping it will be in operation by the summer.
- The objective of our "Rebuild Egypt" campaign was "To flood Egypt with God's Word." We began with highlighting biblical values that resonated with the aspirations of the Egyptian youth. As the situation in Egypt has progressed and regressed, we have become increasingly more focused on equipping the church, seeking to encourage and assure people not to fear the future, but to trust in the Lord.
In the opening service of the new church close to us, the pastor preached on 1 John 4:18, "perfect love casts out fear." True believers should not fear. The best antidote to fear, he said, is love. We do not fear those we love. So the solution is to love those we fear. What a message for Christians in Egypt today!