By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 228
Special to ASSIST News Service
AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- When the military ousted the government of President Morsi on 3 July, it triggered an explosion of violence against Copts (the Christian, indigenous people of Egypt) as Muslim Brotherhood (MB) elites and supporters blamed them for the coup (see RLPB 218, 10 July 2013). The situation then settled somewhat as the MB prepared to challenge the military head on. Two 'sit-ins' in Cairo drew thousands of MB supporters to camp in the streets for six weeks. On 14 August, the military moved in and dispersed the protesters, massacring over 900 Egyptians in four days and triggering another explosion of Islamic violence against Coptic Christians -- the worst anti-Christian violence Egypt has seen in contemporary times. A state of emergency was declared. (See RLPB 224, 21 Aug 2013.)
Whilst violence was recorded across the state [See Egypt: Mass Attacks on Churches, Human Rights Watch (22 Aug 2013)], Minya province in Upper Egypt was hardest hit and Delga, the town closest to the main highway, bore the brunt of the violence. [Delga / Delgia, mentioned in RLPB 218, is home to 20,000 Christians.] Samir Lamei Sakr, a prominent Christian lawyer, told The Guardian: 'As soon as the crackdown in Cairo started [14 August], all the loudspeakers at the main mosques in Delga issued calls for jihad.' Christian properties were marked. Sakr's home was attacked and he was hit with 13 shotgun pellets. Worse still, his cousin was killed by Islamists who then tied his body to a tractor and dragged it around the town. Bishop Macarius told The Guardian that though they called for help, 'no one answered. Not the police, not the army, not the fire service'. Even churches within sight of the provincial police headquarters were burnt. More than 100 forcibly displaced Christian families fled Delga with nothing and have nothing to return to.
On 5 September Egypt's Interior Minister narrowly escaped a serious assassination attempt in Cairo. On 12 September the state of emergency was extended by two months. On Monday 16 September heavily armed Egyptian troops stormed into Delga, arresting 56 and liberating the town from two months of Islamist control. According to Stratfor Intelligence (16 September), the military could have liberated Delga from as early as 22 August, but instead spread 'exaggerated rumours about the persecution of Copts to justify operations'. But as was flagged in RLPB 224, it is more probable that the military chose to exploit the very severe persecution (as distinct from exaggerate it), 'rather than prevent it, to legitimize military violence, military rule and requests for military aid'.
Though Christians are understandably relieved, Egyptian human rights lawyer, Ahmed Salah, believes the crackdown is less about protecting Christians and more about exploiting the state of emergency to take revenge on those who have attacked police and stolen their weapons. Officials from the Interior Ministry confirmed that the military action had nothing to do with protecting Christians. The New York Times (16 September)reports: 'Interior ministry officials said the [military] expedition was an attempt to capture a single fugitive Islamist, and it may depart soon. The overwhelming force, they said, was merely for self-protection [as] the surrounding province of Minya is still considered a bastion of Islamist support for Mr. Morsi.'
The violence in Egypt is settling into a deadly cycle: (1) The MB challenges the military (resisting the coup); (2) the military responds with force; (3) MB supporters react with violence against Coptic Christians (whom they blame for the coup). Then the cycle starts again. The military cares nothing for Christians and, with money coming from Saudi Arabia, it has no interest in protecting Christians but only in protecting itself. The military would kill Christians without a second thought if it felt it were in its interests to do so, as it did in Maspero, October 2011. With the MB recruiting jihadis in Algeria and beyond, it can only be anticipated that terrorism against the State and genocidal violence against the Coptic Church will increase. Egypt's Christians need our prayers.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --
- God, 'the hope of all the ends of the earth', will intervene in Egypt and 'still . . . the tumult of the peoples' (from Psalm 65).
- the Holy Spirit will move powerfully amongst Egyptian Christians, enabling them to stand firm in faith (Isaiah 7:9b) with confidence and assurance (Hebrews 10:35-39), so they might live radically counter-cultural lives, loving their enemies and praying for those who persecute them (Luke 6:27-36); not fearing what people fear, but honouring the Lord in all circumstances and knowing his presence according to his promise (Isaiah 8:11-15).
- the Holy Spirit will b ring awakening to Egyptian Muslims, convicting multitudes of 'sin and righteousness and judgement' (from John 16:7-11); as Egypt is 'shaken' may Islam be brought down and the Lord exalted (Isaiah 2:7-21 and Hebrews 12:26-29).