By Martin Roth
Christians may despair that all the news coming out of Egypt is so bad – continual and escalating attacks on the Coptic Christian minority. Where is God, they wonder.
A long and wonderful interview in the Christian Post with Pastor Dr. Sameh Maurice of Cairo’s Al-Dubara Evangelical Church shows that God is active in the country. Read it all. Here are a few excerpts:
We were praying for Egypt for 10 years. The year before [the Arab Spring revolution] we had a clear message: “This year something unique would happen which will change the land.” We put up a banner: “What I’m going to do for you is awesome.” So when the revolution came we weren’t shocked.
Because we expected this from God, we weren’t shocked because we were looking for something special to happen that very year; it made us ready to react properly.
As well we had been very much involved in human rights. We set up an NGO as part of our church ministry to deal with human rights, plus our geographic location. We are in [Tahrir] Square where the revolution happened. We had two options: close the doors and say we aren’t here or open the doors and say we are here. Every Friday we were invited to go into the square and pray and worship the Lord as Muslims did. We were invited.
…The church reacted, led by God, to say what should be said, to do what should be done, and in the small things we did, we were thanked and praised by anyone. After the resignation of Mubarak, we held the first celebration. We invited the core people of the revolution: media, families of the martyrs, Muslim leaders, to thank them and honor them, to give them gifts. We did it spontaneously, but we believe we were led by the Spirit. We were the first to do so. So the media publicized this and since then we became close friends of the famous names of the revolution. We were the first to bring them together over coffee to discuss their future. And since we weren’t into politics, we could get them to cooperate. We did it innocently but whatever we could do we did it. We brought them together to get them to know each other. We did small things.
With the second wave of the revolution, which was the fall of 2011… we opened the church as a field hospital. Again the spot light came on us. We did it out of love and patriotism, God made something of it. It was known and appreciated by everyone…We became like a bridge builder between the Christian and Muslim community. Working and helping each other, all on a Christian basis.
We also became a prophetic voice of the church. The church became proud of what we were doing so they expected us to lead them in what to say and do. They trusted our agenda, even the Orthodox (Coptic) Church.
…By the grace of God, what we did, saved the face of Christianity, in front of Christians and Muslims. In the beginning the official Orthodox stand was supporting the government, Mubarak against the revolution. To have someone else supporting the flags of the revolution, saved our face (Christianity) to the Muslim world, especially after the success of the revolution. Otherwise we would have been discredited. The Orthodox realized that and thanked us. To my surprise I thought they would resent us, but we found favor in their eyes.
…We are in a new day. As evangelicals we were the nobody person. For the first time we are seen and heard by the whole community. The church started to be seen by Muslims in a very different way. Muslims used to hate, disrespect and ignore the church. Now many of them respect the church because they can now compare between the church and what the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists (Islamists) do. They see the difference. As you read tweets you can see that. “The Muslim Brotherhood is killing us and the church is healing us.” Despised, hated, neglected, some of them, about 30% see us in a different way. There has been increased number of conversions to Christ in a big way.
So of course the church has been attacked, last September, by assailants hurling gas bombs and stones.
And Pastor Maurice ends the interview on an ominous note, looking ahead:
There are two possible scenarios.
First Islamists will take over. Freedom will be suppressed, persecution will come. Many Christians in the rural area today are being persecuted. Homes and fields and shop are being taken from them. In cities because of the population it is not that bad. Islamists take away land and shops by violence and guns and the government is not protecting Christians.
So if the Islamists take over we expect persecution and we expect the economy will collapse, people will starve.
Second scenario: liberals will win, meaning civil views, rejecting theocratic rule, as the Islamists want, and advocating instead democracy and freedom, not associating religion with political dominance.
If this side wins (and we believe they are the majority) the battle, we will have more freedom, economy will improve.
But if the first comes, the church will go underground and be oppressed. If the second comes, then we will be more seen and be able to bring truth and love to the people of Egypt. We are working to prepare ourselves for either scenario.