Posted on Jun 25, 2012 | by Diana Chandler
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- With Christians wary of religious freedom under newly elected Egyptian president Mohamed Morsy, a Southern Baptist theologian says God is still in control and encourages Christians to continue to pray.
Mike Edens, professor of theology and Islamic Studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press that the election of the Muslim Brotherhood member is no indication of what God will do in Egypt and the Middle East.
"The living God is not limited to using only people who acknowledge Him for His purposes in world government. He is the only God and is moving the world of people toward an appointment with Him," said Edens, a former International Mission Board missionary.
Morsy was declared Egypt's president Sunday (June 24) after taking 51.7 percent of the vote in a runoff against former general Ahmed Shafik, the results of the first democratic election in the country's history.
Many Coptic Christians, about 10 percent of Egypt's population, supported Shafik.
Coptic Christian Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., told Baptist Press that Morsy's election will give Muslims greater freedom to persecute Christians on national and local levels and will likely hinder Christian revival in the region.
"Now with the state collapsed completely, we see this rise of the Islamists and their ability to enforce their views, both in terms of their domination of national politics, but also very importantly, on the local level," he said, "of the ability of local Islamists in various villages to enforce ... certain patterns of behaviors on their Christian minority neighbors."
Edens said Morsy's victory is a call to Christian prayer.
Christians should implore "God to grant the desire of every Egyptian parent that their children would have a better and more peaceful life among all the peoples of Egypt, that God in His sovereign grace would increase every Egyptian's access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for God to give insight and grace to their elected and appointed leaders," Edens said.
While Morsy has proclaimed himself "a president to all Egyptians" and has said he might appoint a Christian vice president, Tadros said any constitution drafted under Morsy will not likely guarantee religious freedom.
Already, as many as 200,000 Christians have fled Egypt in the country's unrest, according to estimates, and the Muslim Brotherhood has an organized, active history against Christianity there.
"The most thing that would alarm me as a scholar and observer of the Muslim Brotherhood is an attempt by the Islamists to control the (Coptic) church as an institution in Egypt and use it as a means to control the Christian masses, i.e., replicate a kind of national church model that was there in Communist countries during the ... Soviet Union and so on," Tadros said.
"The church today is in its weakest point," he said. " ... We don't have a [Coptic Christian] pope at this moment ... The changes in Egypt come at a point where the Christians are the most vulnerable."
Coptic Christians' most recent pope died in March.
Meanwhile, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak suffered a stroke last week and had been declared "clinically dead," although Egyptian medical officials have denied reports of his death.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' staff writer.