|(Photos by Maggie Osama)|
Egypt (MNN/ODM) ― 11 months ago, the spark of revolution ignited in Tunisia. Within weeks, the first regime tumbled.
What followed in the next few months was the toppling of other repressive governments. The season of protest was soon dubbed "Arab Spring." The movement changed the landscape of the Middle East and North Africa and sent shockwaves around the world.
However, not everyone has been benefitting from the uprisings. Carl Moeller is President and CEO of Open Doors USA, a ministry advocating on the behalf of the persecuted church. He says, "The reality for Christians in Northern Africa, Middle Eastern region, that have experienced an 'Arab Spring' is that the situation is far more complex and dangerous for Christians in that region than it was a year ago. The political dimension of almost every one of the revolutions has become the contours of an Islamic government."
Christians were already a minority population in countries like Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and for them the future is all but clear. Did they get any benefit from the democracy movement? It depends on who you ask. Many hailed the movement as a victory for democracy. However, the reality doesn't resemble democracy as Americans recognize it. Moeller says, "That didn't dim the optimism that many of our Christian brothers in Egypt had during that time frame, because they were throwing off a regime that was oppressive. One of the challenges now is to reconcile those great hopes with the unmistakable reality that there is still a very strong possibility that persecution is going to increase."
Will 2012 bring more persecution and marginalization for Christians, or greater liberty to worship?Moeller says, "In places like Egypt, we are going to see a lot more turmoil before the day is out. There's one thing you can say about this movement: it is still defining itself." It's not totally set in stone, Moeller points out. "There are still two more election rounds to go, and we know that in those election rounds, other things can happen to form the final form of the government."
Moeller adds that the current situation in Egypt in which the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood is holding an estimated 40% of the seats in the parliamentary elections so far is a reality check for Coptic and evangelical Christians, who comprise 10% of the population. Hardline Salafists are also doing well in the on-going election.
Soon, Egyptian believers may be joining the ranks of Iraqi believers on the move. "We think that Christians will emigrate more; we think there will be an upswing in persecution and restrictions. But we're still hopeful and prayerful that the church will continue to grow, nonetheless."
The up-side of this story is that it means the Gospel is taking root. "Where the Gospel is penetrating more, there's more persecution. Where there's more persecution, it seems that there's a greater opportunity for the Gospel to be shared and for the church to actually grow."
It's a paradox of note: "They become more committed to their faith as their faith that they're committed to costs them more." The single most requested help coming from believers in the region is prayer. Moeller says, "Pray for the Christians in Egypt to be strong amid the uncertainty and the increasing pressure. Pray for the political process that it will produce a government in many of these countries that will respect the rights of Christians."
A Christian in Egypt made the following request to the Open Doors team while saying goodbye: "Thank you for coming. It was a great encouragement, and it really meant something for us. Please remember us in your prayers and ask believers in the West to pray for us. We need your prayers. We need to be one in Christ in this challenging chapter of our history. My wife and I want to stay here, but we know it will not be easy. Please, do not forget us and leave us alone."