While Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has shaken up his government and vowed not to run for re-election in September, protests are entering their second week in Cairo and other large cities in the country.
Of particular concern for Christians is the future and safety of Copts, an ancient sect of believers dating back to the first and second centuries B.C. A recent church bombing in Alexandria heightened security fears for Copts, who in recent years have come under increasing pressure from Islamic fundamentalists.
The political uncertainty adds another deep and difficult dimension for Copts.
According to Open Doors, a California-based ministry which has worked with persecuted Christians internationally for decades, Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church has urged Coptic Christians to stay away from the demonstrations and unite in prayer.
However, many Christians are taking part in demonstrations, according to an Open Doors-affiliated clergy member identified as Pastor George.
“I am in contact with members of my church who have gone into the streets to protest. As Christians we are also part of the Egyptian society and community and we cannot stay away from all of this. It matters us too. We are also in the middle of it,” George said.
“We pray for the president, and we do not understand why he has not withdrawn himself from his post. We pray for him that he will do what is good for Egypt and that he will leave at the right moment. Our meetings are also moments to talk about the situation and open our hearts. The situation on the streets is difficult. We hear gunshots and people are killed on the streets. We also are having problems with the provision of our food. The infrastructure in the country is under pressure. It is very scary not knowing how the situation will develop further. Tuesday was an important day, as 1 million people were on the street to protest.”
Pastor George also shares that the work of Open Doors in Egypt has come to a standstill. “Our co-workers and other volunteers cannot go to their ministries or work anymore,” says George. Road blocks, lack of public transportation and the curfew are all hindering this. And even now we have no cash funds anymore to pay for projects or to provide our co-workers with enough money to do their work. Banks have been already closed for a week and the ATMs are empty. Almost everything in Egypt runs by cash money and that is finished, for almost all Egyptians. That is concerning me too, for what will people do when they are really out of cash for some more days? Please pray for Egypt, for the church and the Christians. And for President Mubarak.”