What Does Change Mean in Egypt, for Egyptian Christians?


What Does Change Mean in Egypt, for Egyptian Christians? | Ayman Ibrahim, Egypt, Hosni Mubarak

Those who seek to replace the Hosni Mubarak regime ignore – intentionally or unintentionally – some important aspects of Egyptian character, culture and ideology, Ibrahim observes.
Tuesday, Jan. 25, marked what most Egyptians called "the Day of Rage," in which thousands of Egyptians demonstrated, calling for President Hosni Mubarak to leave office.

 

Following the Tuesday demonstrations, the Muslim Brotherhood called on its followers, all those who follow Allah and his Prophet, to keep on protesting and calling for a new wave of massive demonstrations after the Muslim noon prayer on Friday, Jan. 28.

 

Muhammad El-Baradei, a Nobel laureate and Mubarak's opponent, returned from Europe to Egypt on Thursday, Jan. 27, announcing he intended to join Egypt's demonstrators on Friday.

 

Ironically, his first official announcement after landing in Cairo was, "I am not ready to lead the process of the change, but I will support it."

 

Demonstrations seem to have started in a peaceful way and ended in chaos. Flames rose in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and many other cities as protesters burned police cars. Some set the ruling party headquarters in Cairo ablaze.

 

On Friday, after the Muslim noon prayer, many protesters chanted "Allah Akbar" (meaning "Allah is great," which is the first phrase in the Muslim call to prayer).

 

In the meantime, Egypt's government closed its stock market as the index suffered a severe drop. The Egyptian Soccer Federation postponed matches Friday and Saturday.

 

Violent clashes have taken place between security forces and protesters, which prompted a presidential order to send the army into the streets and impose a nationwide curfew.

 

All eyes are focused on the demonstrations, and all hearts are worried as the future seems fuzzy. The country is paralyzed.

 

Mubarak gave a speech in which he asked the government to resign, assuring Egyptians that he was definitely committed to economic and political reform.

 

Mubarak later named a vice president as protesters defied curfew and chaos crippled Cairo. Reports said many gangs went to different areas stealing property and threatening people in their homes.

 

On Facebook and Twitter, Mubarak's opponents called for a "change."

 

What change means depends on who's talking. Quite a bit of the comments say that an Islamic state would be the best replacement for today's government seeking to return to the best days of Muslim sharia law by obeying Allah and his Prophet.

 

Egyptian Christians fall into two main groups. One group supports the demonstrators and calls for "change," without being sure of what the future might hold for them. The other group stays home or within church territories in continuous prayer for God to save Egypt.

 

In his weekly sermon, the Coptic Pope Shenoda III called for Egyptians, in general, to calm down as nothing could be achieved through anger. He advised Christians, specifically, not to go to demonstrations. Some Christians disagreed with the Pope's advice and called for a rebellion against the status quo.

 

The situation is too complex, for it is not only about changing Egypt's current government or leadership.

 

 
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Those who seek to replace the Mubarak regime ignoreintentionally or unintentionallysome important aspects of Egyptian character, culture and ideology. If we call the current government corrupt, who would guarantee that the next president would not be the same? Do we really believe that Mubarak's opponents are going to lead Egypt to utopia?

 

In fact, I would argue that most of those protesters are not being objective. They shout for change, but they know nothing about its nature, even if they may state one or two requests. It's change for the sake of change.

 

Half the people in Egypt are illiterate, and the country is driven mainly by superstitious or false religious thoughts. If someone I mean any dynamic Egyptian man stands in the midst of a thousand Egyptians and shouts "Allah Akbar," at least 90 percent are ready to shout back "Allah Akbar" and follow that man.

 

Egyptians are calling for change. However, what underprivileged Egyptians think when they speak of change is totally different from what those who manipulate them plan to do once they reach office. Underprivileged people are by far the majority of Egyptians.

 

The question remains: If Mubarak leaves, are we Egyptians ready for democracy? And what kind of democracy are we talking about?

 

In reality, the Muslim Brotherhood is the major opponent party to Mubarak's regime. Their slogan is: Islam is a religion and state; it is a worship and leadership. They believe that Islam should rule, and that sharia should be applied. They do not hide that. They claim this everywhere, and they proudly claim their religious affiliation all the time.

 

If we apply what the Muslim Brotherhood calls "democracy," then should Coptic Christians start seeking other countries in which to live as refugees? Should Christian women begin to wear head-covering hijab? Are we ready for a change to a new Taliban?

 

Furthermore, Muhammad El-Baradei does not have enough personal credit among Egyptians. That is the reality. He cannot win their hearts, as they feel he lived outside Egypt more than he lived in it. Most Egyptians feel he has never suffered what they have suffered for so many years.

 

And Mubarak's opponents are using El-Baradei to achieve their agenda. The Muslim Brotherhood, at some point, claimed they had no problem uniting with El-Baradei. But they immediately took back that claim when El-Baradei announced he wanted Egypt's government to be secular.

 

I'm not sure that Egypt's people will benefit from these demonstrations, but Mubarak's opponents definitely will. I see a difference between a rebellion or revolt, and changing the status quo using legitimate ways.

 

From a Christian standpoint, I never saw Jesus calling for rebellionhe called people to change their hearts, attitudes and behavior – love your God, and love your neighbor. Paul the Apostle urged Christians to pray and intercede for kings and all who are in authority though he was killed by one.

 

My heart's tears go for Egypt. O God, please save my country!

 

Ayman Ibrahim is a Christian from Egypt and a doctoral student at Fuller Theological Seminary.

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