Friday, September 27, 2013

Christian leaders speak on situation in Egypt

Evangelicals Now October 2013 by Chris Sugden

Reports in the western media on the overthrow of President Mursi in Egypt were coloured by outrage over the ejection of a democratically elected president. The United States curtailed its financial and military support to Egypt. But other voices, especially from Christian leaders have insisted on a different narrative.

The Coptic Archbishop

In July, Archbishop Angaelos of the Coptic Church in Egypt told the General Synod in York that since the election of President Mursi the stock market was at a 5 year low. There was 33% unemployment, there have been 5500 strikes/protests, and the debt ws 85% of GDP. Crime figures were up. Armed robberies rocketed, and car thefts tripled. There have been more attacks on Christian churches than in the last 20 years.

He concluded: ‘What has happened is not best described as a military coup. The people issued a vote of no confidence in the elected government. There have been attacks on all religious communities. Sufi Shrines have been attacked and Shiites have been killed in the streets. Egypt has been a polarised community and one section has taken over all.”

President Mursi did not govern for all the people, only for his faction. Once having gained power through democratic election, his Muslim Brotherhood followed a “winner takes all” policy.

The Anglican Archbishop

The action of the army in deposing President Mursi was, Archbishop Mouneer Anis of the Anglican Church in Egypt told me, a response to a popular uprising – he had never seen so many people out on the streets calling for the President to step down. Fifteen million people signed the petition to remove the Brotherhood from power, and many more were involved in demonstrations up and down the country. The army acted according to the constitution and installed the president of the constitutional court as interim president.

Following the deaths that followed the army’s dispersal of the pro-Mursi demonstrators Archbishop Mouneer told me “The demonstrators were armed and they killed 43 policemen. This was a battle. They burned 43 churches. Is this a peaceful reaction? The Muslim Brotherhood are not our enemies but they behaved in a terrible way and the vast majority of Egyptians are so angry at them and support the current administration. Before the dispersion of the demonstrations many police stations were attacked by machine guns. These are acts of terrorism. “

He continued “We witnessed bloodshed on our streets, vandalism and the deliberate destruction of churches and government buildings in lawless acts of revenge. One of our Anglican Churches was attacked, and other ministries received threats.’

Religious cleansing is at the heart of extremist movements. The Muslim Brotherhood is motivated by the notion of pure religion. This requires cleansing places of other religious expressions.

Bishop Michael Nazir Ali has written:

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-led regime was headed inexorably towards a Sunni theocracy based on an unreconstructed imposition of Wahabbi-type Sharia which had led already, for example, to the harassment of women who would not abide by Islamist diktat over dress, freedom of movement and associating with unrelated males.”

“Islamists saw their chance of turning the largest Arab state into an Islamic one. Even after the intervention by the armed forces, offers were made to include Islamist representatives in the government, but they were rejected in favour of a "purist" rather than a "realist" solution.”

“The future must lie in a peaceful and negotiated transition to an Egypt that is not simply "majoritarian", but where democracy also means the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms, including those of expression, belief, and movement, regardless of gender or religion.”

Appeal for help

The Anglican Church in Egypt serves all Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, especially the disadvantaged and marginalized, through educational, medical, and community development ministries. Unemployment is at a record high, there is a lack of security on the streets, the economy is in decline, and poverty is crushing for many people in Egypt. The Diocese hopes to help the poorest of the poor, helping young people to find jobs and providing spiritual ministry, teaching the Word of God and reaching the unreached.

Funds to support the Egyptian churches can be sent to Anglican Mainstream, 21 High Street, Eynsham, OX29 4HE