A Chronicle of Renewal and Revival

Egypt: How an Islam-tired nation steadily opens up to the Gospel

More often than elsewhere in the Middle East young people in Egypt turn their backs on Islam. Despite the original conservative opposition, they become atheists or Christians.

This observation comes from Dutch Christian and Middle East correspondent Mounir Samuel in a long article (Google Translate version) in secular magazine ‘De Groene Amsterdammer’.

Egypt is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to decline or to convert as a Muslim. A Muslim who openly expresses his faith doubt or desire to convert to another religion can expect a lot of social and political repercussions. Dismissal, rejection by the family, loss of friendship, threats by fundamentalists, arrest, torture, imprisonment or murder by family members or other relatives are the rule rather than the exception.

But there is a growing undercurrent, Samuel observes: the country is Islam-tired. The dominant presence of Islam in every aspect of life, the hypocrisy of clergy and politicians and the rise of salafists and jihadists have made many young Muslims think. They are massively searching for the true essence of religion, which leads roughly to two outcomes: they become more religious than their parents have ever been, or the opposite.

‘The peaceful response of Christians to terror has evoked public sympathy and admiration.’

There is a rising interest in Christianity. The terror waves against Christians in the summer of 2013 and the spring of 2017 have made many young Egyptians think. Not only did the media pay ample attention to the precarious position of the Christian minority in Egypt for the first time; the peaceful response of the leaders also evoked great amazement and public sympathy. A video clip in which Christians sing a message of peace and love in a burnt cathedral went all over the world and forced the Egyptian government to set up a support fund for the reconstruction of churches. Speeches from Christian women who publicly forgave the murderers of their husbands and children, elicited admiration in many talk shows.

New bookstores are popping up in Cairo. There’s a growing interest in Bibles and Christian literature.

The number of Egyptian churches is growing steadily. “Western analysts who predicted the end of Christianity in the Middle East were wrong,” says Reverend Andrea Zaki Stephanous, president of the Protestant churches of Egypt and head of all evangelical churches in the Arab world. “The church in Egypt, whether it is Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant, is one of the strongest in the world. She has had oppression since her inception and has always survived. It’s a true ‘miracle on the Nile’.” With an estimated 15 million Christians, Egypt is the Arab country with the largest Christian minority.

‘After every bomb attack, the churches are fuller. It’s a true miracle on the Nile.’

“The different churches in Egypt have excellent mutual relationships,” Zaki says. “We try to speak to the government, the media and society with one voice. In 2013, when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, we established an Egyptian Council of Churches, uniting the leaders of all churches in the country. We work together in the field of church building legislation, anti-discrimination, government consultation and crisis consultation. We have grown and opened many new churches in recent years. In the past month alone, I have confirmed at least ten new pastors in various local churches.”

The old Christian saying that ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’, certainly seems to be true for Egypt. “After every bomb attack, the churches are fuller. Have you seen the images from last year?” Zaki asks. “Twelve thousand people came together for a public worship service directly behind Tahrir Square. The streets were full. The same applies to the Easter service, directly after the attacks on Palm Sunday. People had to stand because there was no more space in the banks.” Christians have been revived in their faith, and many Muslims convert to Christianity.

Source: Mounir Samuel

ANALYSIS – An article that also gives background to the situation of Christians in Egypt, and the growing openness to the Gospel among Muslims, is Wafif Wahba’s ‘Witnessing to the Gospel through Forgiveness – A living example from the persecuted Christians in Egypt’, published by the Lausanne Movement.

Egypt: The power of prayer

When Greg Kernaghan, a writer for OM International, travelled through Egypt several years ago, he discovered how prayer is transforming lives and communities.

He met Fatima, a great-grandmother who can recall a life spent in tents. Illiterate, she has heard the dramatised Bible on tape and seen mighty answers to Christians’ prayers for her family in Jesus’ name. She confided that she knows several Muslim locals who also follow Jesus.

Then there was Khalid, a serious man who worked for the secret police. Yet others in his family had become friends with new Christian neighbours. When they experienced a problem, their religious leaders had no solutions or answers but, when the Christians prayed, they were solved instantly. To counteract the perceived shame to his family’s religion, Khalid attempted to drive the Christians from his neighbourhood through fear. However, this backfired and word of the Gospel and God’s interventions spread rapidly throughout the community.

Source: Greg Kernaghan

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