From a PC(USA) Mission Co-Worker in Egypt
Feb. 17, 2010
Editors note: We have withheld the name for security reasons
Not surprisingly, Egyptian Christians love to read Isaiah 19:25 when the Lord of hosts proclaims, "Blessed be my people Egypt." The verse has a larger context and demands careful interpretation. Nevertheless, these words of promise from the mouth of God encourage and strengthen Egyptian Christians in a remarkable way. In Arabic, the verse reads phonetically, "Mubarak shaaby Masr" or to try and translate the pun, "Mubaarak is my people Egypt." There is deep irony in the fact that President Mubaraks name means "blessed."
One of our former students who is currently a wonderful leader in a church standing approximately 200 meters from Tahrir Square suggested a new translation for the verse: "Freely elected representative government is my people Egypt"! The removal of Mubarak and the hopes of a newer, freer future reflect the blessing that most Egyptians deeply desire today. We pray for Egypt to experience Gods blessings in every way, but we are happy to join the rest of the country in praying that God would bless this nation with a more democratic and just government in the months ahead.
The past three weeks have been incredibly challenging. Things have settled down enough that we felt comfortable reuniting our family here in Cairo. This was a wonderful answer to the prayers of many. We are all safe, together, and hopeful for the future. Anyone who has not been here would be struck by the rows of tanks and barbed wire along the road from the airport. Even after just two weeks, my experiences have warped my perspective to the point of actually thinking the reduced number of tanks was rather hopeful. But the reality is that even half the tanks are too many
The experience of the last three decades under President Mubarak has had a similar effect on Christians in Egypt. Many see the relative stability of an oppressive dictator to be more comforting than the specter of an Islamicist regime like Iran. Today, many are starting to believe that the choice between dictator and theocracy does not exhaust the options. The Facebook revolutionaries in Tahrir Square have inspired manyboth inside and outside the Churchto believe that freedom and democracy can be achieved and lived here in Egypt. Please pray for Egyptian Christians to recover the influential role they once had in the civic sphere. Six decades of living under military rulers has created a false dichotomy between the spiritual and the physical; the theological and the political. Pray that Egyptian Christians would regain their voice in social, political, and economic affairs, to fully participate in building Egypts future and cooperating with neighbors.
Last Friday night, the newly appointed vice-president of Egypt delivered a 50-word announcement that sent at least 50 million Egyptians into ecstasy: President Hosni Mubarak was stepping down. For weeks, we had been abiding by the government curfew and even choosing to stay off the streets during the day. The whole country, but especially Cairo, prepared for the worst. Then, with that short, austere announcement the people flooded into the streets.
I went out with a young friend from our seminary to join in the celebrations, a 17-year-old Presbyterian who deeply loves his country. He is a wonderful example of the young people that give me and so many others hope about Egypts future. His talent, character, and energy will bring great blessings to so many, if he (and many others) is only given the chance. Please pray for the young people of Egypt as they seek to build a new Egypt. By Gods grace, Christian and Muslim young people can make this country a source of blessing for its people and the region as a whole.
The first glimpse I had of Tahrir Square came from the 6th of October Bridge. We stood behind a crowd of people looking down at another crowd of people who were waiting for another crowd of people to let them into Tahrir. Trying to find a space to take some pictures at the rail, I noticed a man holding his baby boy. Then I noticed the tears starting to flow down his face. After a brief and emotional conversation, it became clear that the tears were tears of hope and joy for the baby boy in his arms. He, like so many other Egyptian parents, disregarded the armys curfew and bedtimes, because he wanted his son to be there for the start of a new day in Egypt. Inspired by the youth of Tahrir Square, this man believed that tomorrow would be better for Egypt, Egyptians, and especially his son. Moreover, he wanted me to be there too. He made room for me at the rail and made certain that I took those pictures.
The demographics of the crowds were remarkable. Certainly, we encountered many Muslims throughout the crowds. As Muslims make up nearly 90% of Egypts population, they were well- represented. But these were not radicals crying out for theocracy or sharia law. People like that may have been in the crowds, but we did not see them. We saw Egyptian Muslims celebrating freedom, hope, and the end of a military regime. The Muslims that we saw were there primarily for greater freedom, less corruption, and a brighter future for their children. Every Egyptian Christian I know fully supports these hopes. Please pray that Christians and Muslims would have the wisdom and integrity to overcome distrust of one another and seek common goals together.
We also encountered Christians celebrating Egypts revolution. Young people like my friend from seminary were inspired by the way that the protesters kept countering violent attacks by the authorities with a resolute decision to carry on their protests peacefully. Not surprisingly, this resonated with Jesus teachings about turning the other cheek.
There is a long, long road ahead for Egypt. There are many challenges and dangers on this road. Nevertheless, the events of the past three weeks have brought inspiration and hope to many people here (including each of us). Please continue to pray that the Prince of Peace would continue to work in and through Egyptians so that we would join in the affirmation, "Blessed be Gods people Egypt.
Thank you for your prayers and support.