Egyptian Christian's goal: restrictions lifted on Gospel

NEW ORLEANS (BP)--The transfer of power in Egypt has the potential to be "even more dramatic than the fall of the Berlin Wall," a Southern Baptist observer said after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down Feb. 11.

"In these uncertain times, I am sure that God is drawing Egyptians to Himself in Jesus Christ. That is of primary importance, but He is also seeking to give all people a government in which our God-given personhood can excel," Mike Edens, professor of Islamic studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press.

"In such environments, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience flourish. Egypt and most of the world has not experienced that. For God to give that gift to Egyptians, an extraordinary period of free discussion by Egyptians of Egyptian concerns, hopes and dreams needs to occur. What has happened in these past days is unique in the Arab and Muslim worlds but it is also rare within the human family.

"This can be an event even more dramatic than the fall of the Berlin Wall," Edens said. "It is a great time for us to pray for God to be glorified in the course of His choosing in Egypt, to pray for followers of Jesus Christ living in Egypt and among Egyptians to be bold and effective in living out and sharing the Gospel."

Amid change, Egyptian Christians are asking for prayer. In an e-mail shared with Baptist Press, an Egyptian Christian asked specifically that believers pray for Mubarak to be succeeded by a godly president who cares for the people; for freedom, including freedom of worship; for a democratic government; for a lifting of the oppression and injustice; and for the Arab and Muslim world to experience God moving.

The man described his experience from the past few weeks, noting that he left Egypt on a trip the day before the demonstrations began. When he realized what was going on, he returned to Cairo, but "it was not the Cairo I left." Roads were empty and tanks were everywhere, he said.

He went to Tahrir Square Feb. 1 in support of those calling for change and said it was a wonderful experience, with all kinds of people -- poor, rich, educated and non-educated -- gathered to peacefully demand a different kind of leadership.

The next day, the Egyptian Christian said, there was a radical shift in the atmosphere. Pro-Mubarak crowds attacked the demonstrators, he said, and caused irreversible damage in the people's trust of the regime.

"The battle is very violent on the ground," the man wrote before Mubarak stepped down, "but we do know that the battle in the heavenly places is much more important. We need to win this battle in the spiritual realm or winning in the physical realm is meaningless and probably impossible.

"There are hundreds of prayer meetings all over the country. We need you to unite with us in prayer to win this battle for Egypt. We do know that if we win this battle in Egypt, it will change the face of the Arab world, which will in turn change the face of the Muslim world."

Another Egyptian Christian relayed in an e-mail that his local congregation did not sense that the revolution would occur and therefore was not prepared to help people cope at first.

"One of the lessons for us is to watch more insightfully through the events and try to analyze well to be able to read things and ask the Lord for a message for our people," the man wrote.

Two members of his church lost a shop they owned when criminals started looting and burning. Because of an imposed curfew, the church's evening services were cancelled. But they held a two-hour prayer meeting each day while they could still move freely.

"I asked the congregation to share how they felt during the crisis," he wrote. "It was a way to help us expose our negative feelings and pray that the Lord may heal us."

Among the responses were that people were afraid, shocked, distracted and worried about their families.

"If the above described the feelings of believers, you can imagine how bad the feelings of non-believers were," he wrote. "Then, I asked them to share what they think God was saying to them or what they have learned during the crisis."

The church people said they repented and wept, focused on who God is, recognized God's leading, sensed God calling them to be "a watchman for the people," felt convicted to stop being selfish and encourage those who are afraid, and realized it was time to be silent and let God speak.

"One of the positive things that we gained through these tough days was getting closer with our Muslim neighbors," the Egyptian Christian wrote. "After the police disappeared and the chaos started, we had to stand together to watch and protect our homes and neighborhoods, and that was the first time after years of tension between Muslims and Christians.

"I see this as a good door opened for us to help and serve our neighbors. We have been living together for hundreds of years through which the gap has increased. We see the crisis as a bridge for us to reach them."

This man, too, asked for prayer that the leadership that comes after Mubarak will allow more freedom for Egyptian Christians and "grant us the right to carry on the Great Commission freely" and plant new churches without the restrictions that had been imposed on them previously.

"Pray that we may have wisdom to discern when and how to interact with the government in the coming period," he wrote. "Thank God for guarding His church and keeping us safe throughout the entire crisis."

The man added that the church in Egypt has "a lot to do in the coming weeks."

"There is a lot of destruction in the country. We need to be positive and active in our communities and serve our people practically to rebuild and restore, which will also need a lot of funds to accomplish.

"A lot of Egyptian families lost a lot, and it is our time to step up and help. Pray for us to receive a special power and direction from the Lord to help and comfort them. The coming days are a golden chance for us to interact with people.

"Pray that the Lord may complete His healing for His wounded children from fear and all the negative feelings mentioned above. Pray that we might also be able to support and encourage even those outside the church as they are in real hunger for this."


Erin Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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