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Egypt Approves 168 More Churches

Egypt New Churches
(via Religio Mag)

This article was published at Christianity Today on December 17.

Egyptian Christians now have an additional 168 legal church buildings.

On November 30, a cabinet committee approved the requests of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic churches to formally register facilities long functioning as centers of worship.

Prior to a new law passed in August 2016, churches faced an arduous task to secure recognition by the government. Local authorities could delay or deny paperwork, often on security grounds placating neighborhood Muslim refusal.

CT previously reported how this new law was not without controversy, but that it designed to streamline the process, allow judicial review, and transfer final approval from Egypt’s president to the local governor.

The law also established a committee to review church requests to license existing church facilities. Consisting of the prime minister, ministers of justice, housing, antiquities, and others, it officially convened in January 2017.

A total of 3,730 requests were submitted for approval, pending review of structural soundness and compliance with local regulations. The first batch of 53 church buildings was approved in February of this year.

According to the government statement, the current decree brings the total number of approvals to 508.

“I am pleased,” said Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt. “The process has been slow in the beginning, but I think going forward it will be better.”

Zaki is optimistic…

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

 

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Current Events

Does One Huge New Church in Egypt Make Up for Troubles with 24 Small Ones?

Sisi New Coptic Cathedral
(via Ahram Online)

This article was first published at Christianity Today on January 10, 2018.

Celebrating Christmas with Egyptian Christians for the fourth consecutive year, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi presented the largest gift under the tree: A new cathedral.

Sisi was the first president in Egypt’s history to even attend a Christmas mass. During last year’s celebration, he promised to build Egypt’s largest church and largest mosque in a yet-to-be-developed new administrative capital.

Three weeks earlier, 27 people had been killed in a suicide bombing in a chapel adjacent the old cathedral and papal residence, St. Mark’s in Cairo.

“Evil, destruction, and killing will never defeat goodness, peace, and love,” Sisi said at this month’s cathedral inauguration. “We are one, and you are our families. No one can ever divide us.”

Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II called the new church, named The Nativity of Christ, a “divine arrangement.”

But also…

 

One week prior to the Helwan incident, a church in Atfih, 60 miles south of Cairo, was ransacked—not by terrorists, but by dozens of local Muslims offended by the rumor that a bell would be installed in the unlicensed village church.

In a recent report by EIPR, Egypt witnessed 20 similar sectarian incidents at churches over a 13-month period. Ibrahim said the total is now up to 24.

EIPR’s reporting timeframe began with the issuance of Egypt’s new church building law, meant to eliminate such problems…

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

 

 

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Current Events

Egypt Says Muslims Who Die Defending Churches are Martyrs. One Just Did.

Helwan Church Attack
(via Ahram Online)

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on December 29, 2017.

In the latest terrorism to strike Egypt, nine people died in Friday morning attacks around St. Mina Church in the southern Cairo suburb of Helwan.

Two Coptic Christians were shot and killed in their nearby storefront. Six others died as they exited morning worship.

The remaining victim was a Muslim police officer guarding the church.

Local reports suggest there were two gunmen. One was apprehended by security forces, foiling his efforts to enter the church. State television showed a second attacker killed, wearing a suicide belt. ISIS claimed responsibility.

The church guard, meanwhile, was hailed as a martyr.

One week earlier, Egypt’s Minister of Islamic Endowments declared the guarding of churches to be “a legitimate and national duty.” Those who die defending Christian houses of worship are to be considered martyrs.

“In our war against terrorism,” said Mokhtar Gomaa, “there’s no difference between Muslims and Christians.” Last month, 300 people were killed in a terrorist attack on a mosque in the Sinai, where Christians have fled violence.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi praised the police effort against the “vicious” attack, and urged heightened security. Two weeks ago, Egypt assigned more than 230,000 police to guard churches in advance of the Christmas holidays.

Even so, last week hundreds of local villagers ransacked an unlicensed church in Atfih, 60 miles south of Cairo. They were offended at rumors the nondescript building would install a bell.

Meanwhile, the Coptic Orthodox Church will hold its primary Christmas celebration in the largest church in Egypt, on land donated by the state in its still-under-construction new administrative capital city. (Orthodox Christians commemorate Christmas on January 7.)

Muslims should join Christians in solidarity, said Ahmed al-Tayyib, grand imam of al-Azhar…

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

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Current Events

What Trump’s Evangelical Advisors Took Out of Egypt

Egypt Evangelical Delegation 2
Image: A. Larry Ross US evangelicals meet with Egypt’s grand mufti.

This article was first published at Christianity Today on November 14, 2017.

Jim Garlow walked cautiously through the cavernous halls of Egypt’s Ministry of Islamic Endowments. He prayed: Why am I here, God? What do you want me to see?

The pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego was part of a 12-member delegation of American evangelicals. Their mission: To offer friendship to the president of Egypt.

But as largely a Who’s Who of Christian Zionists and otherwise pro-Israel pastors and ministry leaders, the mission could easily go awry in a majority-Muslim nation where even the Coptic Orthodox Church still officially bans pilgrimage to neighboring Jerusalem.

Mike Evans, founder of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center in Jerusalem, is a lifelong friend of Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu. Mario Bramnick, senior pastor of New Wine Ministries Church in Florida, is president of the Latino Coalition for Israel. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, leads tours to Israel. They were assembled by Joel Rosenberg, a Jewish Christian with dual US and Israeli citizenship and author of the fictional The Last Jihad series.

But Rosenberg had recently made a new friend, giving him confidence that this visit might be God’s will.

Last year in March, he spent five days in Jordan as a guest of King Abdullah, who had just read his book. Intrigued after noticing himself as a named character in Rosenberg’s latest series on the ISIS threat, the Muslim ruler wanted to know more. (Rosenberg assured Abdullah that his character didn’t die in the series, which the king went on to finish reading.)

Not long thereafter, God placed on Rosenberg’s heart a different Middle East leader: President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt.

Invited as 1 of 60 Middle East experts to a forum held during Sisi’s state visit to President Donald Trump in April, Rosenberg walked up and boldly introduced himself.

“I’m Jewish,” he told CT. “I’ve got some chutzpah.”

Rosenberg thanked Sisi for rescuing Egypt and its Christians from the Muslim Brotherhood. He commended the president for reaching out to Jews and to Roman Catholics.

“But there is one group I don’t see: evangelicals,” he told Sisi. “It’s not your fault; probably we haven’t asked. But would you like us to bring a delegation of leaders to come and visit you?”

Seven months later, Garlow was in Cairo.

“Each step of the way I learned so much,” he said. “There were insights I had never known…”

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

Egypt Evangelical Delegation
Press el-Sisi: Egyptian President el-Sisi (front center) receives a first-ever delegation of American Evangelical leaders in the Presidential Palace after a frank and transparent dialogue about challenges in the region and opportunities for cooperation.
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Current Events

Terrorist Threat Forces Egyptian Churches to Cancel Summer Activities

My new article at World Watch Monitor.

Church Trips Canceled
Egyptian Christian children gather round the country’s flag in a group activity, Aug 2012

The churches of Egypt are temporarily shutting down their summer activities.

“I asked all our churches and conference centres to cancel their trips and events for the next three weeks,” Dr. Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, told World Watch Monitor. “There is news they could be targeted by radicals.”

An unofficial translation of his official statement reads: “Warm greetings in the name of Jesus. In light of recent developments, please stop all church trips and conferences [for] the next three weeks of July 2017. This is a serious matter. Any trip or conference [that continues] will be the personal responsibility of the organiser.”

Zaki confirmed the information came directly from the security agencies. Fr Boules Halim, official spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, told World Watch Monitor his denomination issued similar instructions, asking churches to wait for further information once the three-week moratorium expires.

Please click here to read the full article at World Watch Monitor.

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Current Events

Egypt’s Anglicans Face ‘Existential Threat’… from Fellow Protestants

Egypt Anglican Protestant
Image: KC McGinnis / Lightstock

This article was first published in the March print edition of Christianity Today. I provided additional reporting.

Egypt’s top Anglican leader is accusing its top evangelical leader of attempting a “hostile takeover” to prevent Egyptian Anglicans from achieving state recognition as an independent national church.

The dispute first surfaced in 2001, but this past summer Egypt’s High Administrative Court ruled against Anglican independence. This means the Anglican Diocese of Egypt must function as a full member of the Protestant Churches of Egypt (PCE).

Representing 18 denominations, the umbrella group coordinates the registration of marriages, deaths, property ownership, visas, and other legal—but not doctrinal—matters.

“The most important thing for me is the unity of the Protestant community,” said Andrea Zaki, president of the PCE and a Presbyterian pastor. “I don’t want it to be divided. This would weaken Protestants, and not develop the strengths we have.”

The Anglicans originally filed their case against the Egyptian government. The PCE says soon after, the court obliged them to join as defendants in the Anglican effort at independence.

After the June 2016 ruling, Anglican bishop Mouneer Anis filed a new suit in a lower court. Zaki followed up with key Egyptian agencies to apply the ruling, and the Ministry of Interior informed the Anglican diocese in September that it needed PCE approval for a visa application for an overseas worker.

At a December court hearing, Anglican attorneys addressed procedural faults in the June ruling. That court did not address their petition for the Egyptian president to recognize their denomination as independent, as they believe the law gives him the right to do.

“We were in Egypt before the Protestant church formed,” said Anis, one of the top leaders among conservative Anglicans in the Global South. When he took office in 2000, the Ministry of Interior ratified his documents; this continued until September 2016, after the PCE asked the ministry to stop.

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

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Current Events Uncategorized

Cairo Church Attack Kills 25 at Center of Egyptian Christianity

coptic-cathedral-bombing
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

This article was first published by Christianity Today, on December 11, 2016.

At least 25 people were killed and 49 injured when a bomb exploded around 10 a.m. this morning during a worship service at the spiritual center of Christianity in Egypt.

It is the worst terrorist attack on Copts since the New Year’s bombing of a church in Alexandria in 2011 that killed 23 people.

A worship service of mostly women was targeted in the St. Peter and St. Paul church, adjacent to the St. Mark’s Cathedral and papal residence of Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox community in Egypt and worldwide.

Tawadros was traveling in Greece at the time of the attack. He will cut short his visit and lead funeral prayers tomorrow in the Nasr City district of Cairo.

So far, there has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

“This is an unbelievable act against Egypt first and Christians second,” Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, told Christianity Today.

Please click here to read the full story at Christianity Today.

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Current Events Uncategorized

Let My People Build

This article was published in the November print edition of Christianity Today.

let-my-people-build
(via Coptic Solidarity)

Long live the crescent and the cross!” shouted Egypt’s parliament in joy. All 39 Christian members joined the two-thirds majority to vote to end a 160-year practice instituted by the Ottomans requiring Christians to get permission from the country’s leader before building churches. The long-awaited reform was promised by the 2014 constitution after the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi.

The new law shifts authority into the hands of the governor, who must issue a decision within four months of an application and give detailed reasons for refusals. The law also established a process to retroactively license hundreds of churches erected without a presidential permit.

“It is a good step,” said Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, who helped negotiate the draft law with government officials. “If we wanted an agreement to include everything and please everyone, it would have taken 100 years.

“This is the best we can get right now.”

But even as they celebrated, Christians debated if they failed to fully seize a unique opportunity to pursue equal citizenship…

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

 

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Current Events

Egypt’s Other Churches: Smaller Denominations React to New Construction Law

This article was first published at TIMEP.

egypt-council-of-churches
Father Rafic Greiche, a Catholic priest; Father Bishoy Helmy, an Orthodox priest; and Reverend Rifaat Fikry, a Protestant pastor speak at a meeting of Egypt Council of Churches.

Egypt’s recent church building law was largely negotiated behind the scenes between the government and the three largest Christian denominations: the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches. Despite concerns over insufficient public dialogue and loopholes which may hinder implementation, many Christians celebrate a formal legal process over the ad hoc nature of security intervention and presidential permits.

And among those who hope to gain are the smaller Christian denominations of Egypt. Largely overlooked in the national discussion, they also have a right to freedom of religion and worship.

Christians are generally estimated to be 10 percent of the population, the vast majority belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church. But in 2006, the Ministry of the Interior published its most recent major clarification of Christian denominations, recognizing also the Coptic Catholic Church and the National Evangelical Church as “Egyptian” churches. Eighteen others are approved but designated as “foreign,” An additional 17 Protestant denominations are not mentioned specifically in the 2006 statement, but are recognized under the umbrella of the Evangelical Church.

Please click here to read the full article at TIMEP.

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Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Libya’s 21 Christian Martyrs: ‘With their Blood, They are Unifying Egypt’

(credit Mohsen Nabil / AP Images, via CT)
(credit Mohsen Nabil / AP Images, via CT)

From my new article in Christianity Today:

Late Sunday night at an otherwise quiet curbside café in Cairo, customers put down their tea and backgammon. They sat riveted, watching Egypt’s president pledge retaliation against the Islamic State in Libya.

Earlier in the day, jihadists released a video of the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians. Following President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s declaration of a week of mourning, the channel switched to images of the orange-clad victims, walking to their death on the shores of Tripoli.

“Do you see that?” one customer exclaimed, rising to point out the scene to his friend. “They dressed the Copts like in Guantanamo. This is horrible!”

The remark demonstrates the gut-level reaction of Egyptian Muslims, contrary to the desires of the Islamic State.

“There has been a very strong response of unity and sympathy,” said Andrea Zaki, vice president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt. “People are describing Copts as Egyptians, first and foremost, and with their blood they are unifying Egypt.”

The article then provides commentary from other Christian leaders, and ends with a very direct message:

This thought is the central feature of nearly all Coptic advice to Christians in the West: Support Egypt.

Sidhom speaks openly of his “grudge” against the US administration, and no longer holds hope that American organizations can help. Zaki asks Western citizens to pressure their governments to see the “reality” and designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist entity. Kharrat asks for tourism and investment, especially in Upper Egypt.

But all ask for prayer.

“We are praying for God to change the hearts of those who have been raised on extremist thoughts,” said Anton, “and that this generation of Sisi will be different.”

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today, published February 18, 2015.

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Lapido Media Middle East Published Articles

Are Islamic Terror Plots in Egypt Just ‘Crazy Theories’?

Abdel Rahim Ali
Abdel Rahim Ali

A desperate Egypt reaches out to the West, trying to communicate the dire threat of terrorism.

A celebrity researcher ties this terrorism to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the West yawns.

But 33 soldiers died last Friday in separate brazen attacks on security personnel in Sinai, and now Egypt’s Christian leaders have picked up the mantle to call for help.

‘Egypt now needs the support of its friends,’ wrote Revd Mouneer Hanna, Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt, in an open letter on the diocesan website. ‘This support involves understanding of the real situation.’

One week earlier Revd Andrea Zaki, general director of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services, joined a semi-official Egyptian delegation to the United States. It was made up of diplomats, journalists, civil society members, and men of religion, who were eager to present Egypt’s perspective to a sceptical West.

On many issues Zaki found an agreeable reception. But their counterparts in Washington DC bluntly told the group that the Egyptian government has not provided ‘clear evidence’ linking the Muslim Brotherhood to the ongoing terrorism campaign.

Due process

Perhaps this is because Egypt appears to be giving this ‘evidence’ first to the people, and only later through judicial channels. This reversal of due process causes Western observers to be dismissive.

‘Isn’t he that guy on television with the crazy theories?’ remarked a European journalist as Abdel Rahim Ali walked into the room to hold a press conference on 1 November on the possible emergence of ISIS in Sinai. The mixed crowd of Egyptians and Westerners awaited his evidence.

Ali expects the ‘Supporters of Jerusalem’ – a home-grown terrorist outfit operating out of Sinai – to soon announce their allegiance to ISIS. Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, he said, was an associate of Abu Musad al-Zarqawi in the Islamic State of Iraq and believed to be killed by US forces in 2010.

But some evidence suggests he is still alive and operating out of the Sinai with the Supporters of Jerusalem, Ali said.

On 4 November, without mentioning al-Muhajir, Reuters confirmed Ali’s prediction of the merger with ISIS. But Egyptian state-run Ahram Online denied the news, quoting from what is alleged to be the Supporters of Jerusalem’s official Twitter account, @3Ansar_B_Almqds.

Leaked conversations

In Ali’s presentation, however, the source of his evidence was not provided, fitting with his general modus operandi. Host of the popular television show, ‘The Black Box’, and editor-in-chief of al-Bawaba newspaper, Ali regularly releases leaked conversations of revolutionary and Islamist figures.

Despite their illegal nature, Ali operates freely. And he freely admits his sources are connected to the security apparatus.

One of the most damning allegations concern leaked recordings of phone calls between President Morsi and Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of al-Qaeda. In them an agreement is made to cease operations against Egypt while allowing jihadist groups to exist on Egyptian soil.

In this context, reference in Bishop Mouneer’s open letter about the Brotherhood finds verification. He spoke of the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed el-Beltagi’s statement from the pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabaa in Cairo, prior to its bloody dispersal.

‘We do not control the situation on the ground,’ Beltagi said in a July 2013 video on YouTube. ‘But what is happening in Sinai …will stop the moment …the president [Morsi] returns to power.’

Bishop Mouneer told Lapido Media that, like many others, he is not happy that thousands of people are currently in prison without judicial rulings. He understands this makes the West feel Egypt is being very harsh with the Muslim Brotherhood.

But after listing a long litany of Brotherhood offenses – attacks on protestors, churches, and calls for jihad in Syria – he provides Egyptian perspective on this reversal of due process.

The courts are slow, he said, and Egypt is in a state of war against terrorism: ‘In times of war countries sometimes take extraordinary measures, such as America with Guantanamo Bay.

‘In order to educate the people and influence public opinion, [security] leaks some of these things.’

But of these recordings and allegations, Bishop Mouneer cannot say what is true and what is not, as long as Ali does not release his sources.

Similarly, Zaki does not feel compelled to make the case against the Muslim Brotherhood for the sake of his American audience. ‘This is the responsibility of the government,’ he told Lapido Media.

But he does want to convey Egypt’s general satisfaction with the situation following the post-30 June deposing of Morsi. The military answered the call of millions, he said, and the people ratified this action in subsequent elections.

Acceptance

This message is beginning to be heard. Zaki said the Americans expressed their acceptance of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, as well as the necessary role of Egypt’s military in fighting terrorism.

Economic support will also be forthcoming at the expected 21 February economic summit in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, the Americans told him. Egypt will present investment opportunities in fifteen projects worth $100 billion.

But the message of Egypt’s popular belief in Muslim Brotherhood culpability in terrorism is still awaiting judgment in the West. The Whitehall report authorised by the British government remains delayed.

‘I have no idea about the link between the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda,’ said Bishop Mouneer, expressing more caution than many Egyptians.

‘But I know one thing, we were going backwards during the time of Morsi.’

This article was originally published on Lapido Media.

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Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

Teaching Evangelism in Egypt

Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo

‘Should we sacrifice evangelism for coexistence, or coexistence for evangelism? This debate will concern us for the next several years.’

This quote from Rev. Andrea Zaki ended a presentation by the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo. Founded in 1863 by American Presbyterian missionaries, preaching the Gospel has been a core component of the Coptic evangelical identity since its inception.

Perhaps this is not appreciated by the Western evangelical church. The common perception is that Muslim dominance over Egypt has prevented Christian witness. They see a church shrinking, not growing. On the contrary, the assumption is the church has abandoned evangelism in order to survive. The Western church is sympathetic, but wonders if in forsaking the Great Commission to preach the Gospel to all peoples, Egyptian Christianity is doomed to wither away.

In the choice above, many in the Western church see settling for coexistence is a death warrant for Christian vitality. Better the sacrifice of martyrdom than the slow and steady decline of accommodation. Most Western evangelicals do note the juxtaposition of this thought with the reality of their religious freedom.

Atef Gendy

Dr. Atef Gendy would protest the false choice of evangelism or coexistence. As president of the seminary, he oversees that both are taught. The Missions Department of ETSC has courses in dialogue and in evangelism.

‘We have adopted the holistic approach,’ says Gendy. ‘We encourage dialogue, we preach the Gospel through ethics, service, and ministry, but we also support direct evangelism.’

Yet he noted that dialogue was absolutely necessary, given the social reality in Egypt. A seminary professor polled both Muslims and Christians concerning values. The three worst sins in descending order ranked: 3) Killing someone, 2) Changing religion, 1) Committing adultery.

Such an order does not bode well for the convert, let alone the evangelist.

Therefore, Gendy takes pride in the good relations the seminary enjoys with Muslim leaders, especially the Azhar, the pinnacle of Islamic learning in the Sunni Muslim world. They not only frequently attend interreligious dialogue meetings, they also cooperate practically.

‘We try to develop the religious speech of both Christian and Muslim leaders. We emphasize a shift away from simple ritual and surface issues to focus on ethics and transformation.’

Gendy celebrates much which took place during the Egyptian revolution, but also is worried about increased restrictions on freedom in an Islamic context. Yet for this he emphasizes the strategic decision the seminary has taken in theological education.

‘We must recall our theology in incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. This is to challenge our leaders to empower the church. Why should Christians emigrate? Maybe we will suffer – along with many Muslims – but this is only a precursor to our resurrection!’

Within any potential suffering, love must push Egyptian Christians to stand by their Muslim neighbors, but love in the evangelical understanding implies more than just solidarity.

‘We must testify, amidst all sensitivities. But we must also show our love through service.’

In Egypt, the future is unknown, but this is fitting with evangelism, whose outcome is also unknown. Gendy’s hope is in God in both cases. Whether or not the church is declining, he knows his duty as an evangelical Christian.

‘We do not have the responsibility to convert anyone, this is for God. We only must witness to our faith.’

Perhaps he, along with Egypt’s Christians might add, ‘and coexist at the same time’. Over the next several years this will be the vital challenge facing the church.

This article was originally published on August 3, 2012 in Idea Magazine.

 

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Christianity Today Published Articles

How MB-Evangelical Dialogue Began

On February 28, 2012 the leaders of the Evangelical Churches of Egypt met with the Muslim Brotherhood, and produced a document delineating the shared values of both organizations.

About a month ago I posted the text of this agreement online. Today, my article was published on Christianity Today, drawing out from leaders on both sides the substance of what exactly was agreed upon. Please click here to read it on their site.

Seventeen evangelical signatories are listed; perhaps the one most surprising comes at the very end.

Rev. Rifaat Fikry is the pastor of an evangelical church in Shubra, a densely populated suburb to the north of Cairo well known for its high concentration of Christian residents.

Rev. Fikry is well known for his strident anti-Islamist stance. In fact, it is this very posture which involved him in the dialogue in the first place.

President of the Evangelical Churches Rev. Safwat el-Bayadi and Vice-President Rev. Andrea Zaki first contemplated the quiet invitation of the Muslim Brotherhood, issued through Dr. Rafik Habib. Habib is a controversial figure in evangelical circles. He is the son of Rev. Samuel Habib, founder of the Coptic Organization for Social Services – one of the largest charity and development groups in the country.

He is also a vice-president in the Freedom and Justice Party, the political branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Coptic community of Egypt is very wary of Islamists, fearing an agenda they believe will result in their marginalization and loss of citizenship rights. Knowing full well the sentiment of their flock, Bayadi and Zaki turned to Fikry as the best exemplar and most informed of those who could express Coptic fears through an evangelical lens.

They asked him to write a letter to the Brotherhood detailing every concern, complaint, and consternation. After review, Bayadi and Zaki placed their names on the document, and sent it to the Brotherhood through Habib.

As the original author, it was only appropriate for Fikry to attend the subsequent meeting. He was especially interested to sit face to face with Brotherhood leaders, to ask them the questions at the heart of his opposition. During the sessions, he did so, with boldness.

In the end, Fikry was very pleased with the document. His main complaint lies in the Brotherhood’s rejection of referencing international treaties on human rights. MB leaders were concerned this could open the door to an acceptance of homosexuality, but Fikry argued nothing of the sort. His concern was for religious rights principally.

Even as the meeting ended, Fikry maintained an anti-Islamist stance. He was skeptical; after many months he finds confirmation that the Brotherhood simply used the evangelical churches for political gain.

But he is not regretful. Fikry is clear that he will sit for dialogue with anyone. The lasting value in the meeting comes not only from the agreed upon document, but also from the beginning of relationship. Though this has not continued in subsequent months, it still exists. If Islamists reach to power – a proposition Fikry finds very unlikely – these relationships could be invaluable. If not, they are valuable all the same.

They enable a man to say his piece, and to hear an answer directly.

As the evangelical churches and Muslim Brotherhood agreed, this is part and parcel of citizenship.

The only question, for Fikry especially, is of implementation. Even so, fear thereof should not preclude the effort.

On the contrary, such fear demands it.

Note: Christianity Today also published a feature text on Egypt and the responses of Christian leaders to the transition period. Please click here for access, and click here for the article on the MB-Evangelical agreement.

 

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Personal

Statement of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Leaders of the Evangelical Church in Egypt

At head of table: Rev. Bayadi (L) and Dr. Badie (R)

This text is transcribed from documents received from the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services, headed by Dr. Andrea Zaki, a chief participant in this meeting.

The text reads:

Based on a welcoming letter from Dr. Rev. Safwat al-Bayadi, President of the Protestant Community of Egypt and Dr. Rev. Andrea Zaki, Vice-President, sent to the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, which addressed some public opinion issues at this critical stage in Egyptian history after the January 25th Revolution and gained the attention of the Guidance Office of the Muslim Brotherhood, and based on the two parties’ communication, the General Guide called for a meeting to gather the leaders of the evangelical church and the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. The meeting took place on February 28, 2012, at the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood. The General Guide has agreed to visit the headquarters of the evangelical church upon invitation.

The participants consented on the importance of the current historical moment Egypt is going through after the revolution, which requires everyone to take social and historical responsibility to advance the country. The participants emphasized that Egypt’s future depends on community cohesion and unity, and stressed on the basic values of the Egyptian society that represent its social and cultural identity and brings its citizens together.

The participants agreed on the following:

  • The sons of the country are all partners in one destiny and one future.
  • The joint struggle of all Egyptians of all segments of society, that was manifest in the January Revolution, represents the cornerstone of societal unity; the struggle reflects that full citizenship, based on equality, is the foundation of this society.
  • All sons of the country have the same rights and responsibilities as the constitution states. Equality among all citizens constructs societal unity; efficiency is the only criterion to hold a public position; and equality of economic opportunities is the basis of justice.
  • The Egyptian society is based on solidarity, interdependence and compassion among all people, which represents the bond that includes all citizens without discrimination. Therefore, education should promote the values of tolerance, solidarity and pluralism.
  • Respect for beliefs and sanctities is obligatory. Prevention of any contempt of others’ beliefs and the incitement of hatred is a compulsory social responsibility of loyal citizens.
  • Freedom of belief and religious practices as well as freedom to build or renovate religious houses – in light of the law and the right for citizens to resort to their own religious laws concerning their personal affairs along with other rights mentioned in the Islamic Sharia’ – are all considered part of the values of the Egyptian society and a base for its cultural authenticity.
  • The participation of all citizens in defending the country is the responsibility of all, and it is the crucible where all segments of society are melted and form national unity. This national unity is crucial to fighting all internal and external enemies of Egypt who want to drive a wedge between its societal segments.
  • The religious values are the motives of the renaissance. Therefore, everyone must mobilize these values to achieve a better future for Egypt.
  • Societal responsibility obliges all leaders, institutions and religious movements to fight against all types of strife, intolerance and discrimination, and consolidate the unity of society.
  • The Egyptian society’s identity represents the frame for all its people. All people have made contributions to this identity and deserve its legacy. Protection of societal values is considered the basis of cultural uniqueness and the responsibility of all citizens who contributed to building Egypt’s civilization together over time.

All participants of this meeting made emphasis on the importance of communication between the two parties to promote joint activities, especially among the youth, such as encouraging active participation, advocating for values and religious morals, and carrying the social responsibility of fighting the illness that affected the Egyptian society under the previous regime. This will guarantee everyone the right to participate in building a new Egypt that achieves the demands and dreams of the revolution.

Attendees from the Muslim Brotherhood:

  • Dr. Mohamed Badie (General Guide, Head of the Executive Office)
  • Mr. Mohamed Mahdy Akef (former General Guide)
  • Dr. Rashad Mohamed Bayoumy (Vice-General Guide)
  • Dr. Hosam Abo Bakr al-Seddik (Member of the Guidance Office)
  • Mr. Walid Shalaby (Media Counselor to the General Guide)

Attendees from The Evangelical Church in Egypt:

  • Dr. Rev. Safwat al-Bayadi (President of the Protestant Churches in Egypt)
  • Dr. Rev. Andrea Zaki (Vice-President of the Protestant Churches in Egypt)
  • Rev. George Shaker (Secretariat of the Protestant Churches in Egypt)
  • Rev. Soliman Sadek (Pastor of the Evangelical Church in Fagala)
  • Dr. Rev. Makram Naguib (Pastor of the Evangelical Church in Heliopolis)
  • Dr. Rev. Atef Mehanny (President of the Evangelical Seminary)
  • Dr. Helmy Samuel (Member of the Parliament)
  • Dr. Rafik Habib (Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services)
  • Rev. Refaat Fathy (Secretariat of the Evangelical Synod)
  • Dr. Rev. Sarwat Kades (Chairman of the Board of Dialogue of the Evangelical Synod)
  • Dr. Emad Ramzy (Secretariat of the Board of Directors of CEOSS)
  • Rev. Daoud Ebrahim (Member of the Council of the Presbyterian Church in Egypt)
  • Rev. Eid Salah (Member of the Council of the Presbyterian Church in Egypt)
  • Mr. Farouk al-Zabet (Head of the Congregation of the Evangelical Brethren Church)
  • Dr. Fready al-Bayadi (Member of the Council of the Presbyterian Church in Egypt)
  • Rev. Nady Labib (Head of Cairo Presbyterian Council)
  • Rev. Refaat Fekry (Pastor of the Evangelical Church in Ard Sherif)

Please click here to access the agreement in Arabic