Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pray for the Lord's Church in Egypt

For a number of reasons, it is atypical for me to issue a call to prayer. In this instance, however, the turmoil in Egypt has been gnawing at my conscience. Not for political reasons, obviously. I cannot imagine caring less whether or not the Egyptian people have a truly representative democracy. (Frankly, I don’t think there is anything inherently superior about representative democracy, and I would go so far as to say it is deeply flawed in ways that certain authoritarian forms of government are not…but that is a thought for a different time.) I am concerned about the church in Egypt getting caught in the crosshairs.

Though, from my perspective at least, it ought to be obvious to everyone, a lot of people do not seem to realize that Egypt has a substantial and diverse Christian population. There are well over ten million Christians in Egypt, accounting for somewhere in the neighborhood of 15% of the total population. While primarily the Coptic Church, there are significant groups of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians. To put it in more accessible (and perhaps more offensive) terms, you are twice as likely to find a Christian in Egypt as you are to find a Jew in New York. Yet, in spite of being such a sizable minority, the church in Egypt has long been the target for persecution. When I say "long," I of course am talking in terms of centuries not years. This past year saw a number of noteworthy events culminating in the New Years Day bombing of a church that left 21 dead and approximately 100 injured. (The US Senate was kind enough to approve a "symbolic measure" (read "metaphorical fingerwagging" or "hypothetical disapproval" which all amounts to "impotent posturing") in which they officially frowned upon the bombing.) Christians reacted to the attack inappropriately (read "violently") on the grounds that the government ought to be protecting them.

Maybe it should have, but if it wasn't doing enough to protect Christians before then it certainly won't do anything now that the powers that be in Egypt can hardly protect themselves. I haven't heard anything about it yet-- though with the crackdowns in communication I wonder whether or not we will ever have a full picture of what is going on across Egypt right now--but I fear that the "temporary" absence of law and order will only increase the danger to Christians in Egypt. I hope that such violence never occurs, but more strongly even than that I hope that when the Church is persecuted in Egypt that its members keep the faith and their behavior testifies to the Christian message of love in the face of overwhelming hate.

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