Last year, I had the privilege of visiting the leaders of the Synod of Syria and Lebanon and the Synod of the Nile (Egypt) a year ago, partner denominations to the Presbyterian Church USA. I heard firsthand about the struggles of Christians in these countries. It was made apparent to me that a central component to any lasting peace in the region is for moderate Muslims, Christians, and religious minorities to form a healthy civil society. Dedicated Christians from our partner denominations in these regions have worked diligently toward that end.
We are hearing a great deal about the violence in Syria, and with good reason. The immediacy of the suffering is tragic. But I sense that Egypt may be the bigger story in the long run. There are more than eighty million Egyptians, dwarfing the size of other nations in the region. There is also a history of stronger, more tolerant, societal institutions. If Egypt is transformed into an Islamist state, then I think the implications well be tragic and far reaching for much of the rest of the region.
As I recall, about 90% of Egyptians are Muslim. About 9% are Coptic Orthodox Christians. About 1% are Protestant. Moderate Muslims and Christians alike were part of the protests that ousted Mubarak. Moderate Muslims and Christians are leading the protests against Morsi’s power grab and against the troubling new constitution that is being proposed.
While in Egypt, I had the privilege of dining in the home of a young family who also acted as our tour guides for a day. The wife and mother of this family has been posting articles and pictures relating to the protests on Facebook, like this picture of brave women taking the front row of a march towards the presidential palace carrying their own shrouds (coffin cloth) in their arms.
Three hours ago my friend posted that the referendum on the constitution has now been delayed until the 12th. The pressure has been to get this constitution passed as quickly as possible and there is some hope this delay may lead good things.
Let us all remember to keep Egypt in our prayers. Let us pray that moderate Muslims and Christians will be able to influence events toward the creation of a healthy civil society, delivering Egypt from the bondage of extremist elements, even was we continue to pray for an end to the horrific suffering in Syria.