Friday Prayers for Egypt: Militant Human Rights

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Egypt is abuzz over human rights allegations, accusing security of systemized torture.

Egypt is ablaze in militant conflict, attacking security in systemized violence.

Clarity, God, and safety. Settle the challenges Egypt must face.

The government refutes the charges of torture, stating any examples are individual, investigated, and prosecuted. It states the research into the report was shoddy, reliant on inadequate sources, and overtly politicized.

The government raided a terrorist cell in a neighborhood of urban Cairo, killing several. It then suffered losses when a convoy was ambushed in the Sinai. It asserts progress is being made and pressure exerted on the militants, but still faces an intransigent and virulent threat.

God, assist the authorities to fully establish a culture of human rights and the accountability thereof. And assist the self-appointed accountants to both chronicle and communicate well.

Give them discernment between exposure and advice. Give them wisdom in opposition and partnership. And give humility to the authorities in refutation, with courage, in reform.

But as for militancy, silence it. Channel frustrations into legal and viable options. Save violence only against recalcitrant evildoers. And even these, convict to repentance.

God, there are many paths to legitimacy. There are many more ways to undermine.

Establish Egypt upon your path—abuzz in expectancy, ablaze in creativity—systemized both as secure and human.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Ag, HR

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Egypt used to be a breadbasket. Now she imports her food. But vegetables are still desired abroad, if only they would accept them.

Several nations have put a ban on Egyptian agriculture, wary of pesticides. Egypt had been hoping for boom harvest sales, having recently devalued the currency. Now they may face a domestic glut.

Fix what needs fixing, God. Help Egypt better care for her resources, and better market her goods. Balance crop with environment, profit with health.

However impossible, restore self-sufficiency.

Wherever necessary, reinforce human rights.

The president signed a law strengthening the national council devoted to the cause. Guaranteed is its access to prisons and hospitals, as well as its access to cabinet and parliament.

It has the mandate to hold government accountable. God, give it the wisdom and courage.

Appoint the right men and women. May they find listening ears and responsive hands. May individual and society equally be honored.

Dignity, God, and food. Provide both, from within Egypt.





An Egyptian Human Rights Rebuke, to America


It is not unusual for American politicians and the State Department to call out other nations of the world for their violation of human rights.

But the past few weeks have given other nations an excuse to hit back. Laugh or cry, here is a selection of Egyptian statements about our racial issues and the UK Chilcot report on the Iraq War.

MP Margaret Azer, deputy ‎chairman of Egypt parliament’s human rights ‎committee, said in a statement that she was appalled by ‎the brutality of American police.

“I think that all ‎Egyptian MPs and defenders of human rights should ‎move to condemn the repeated brutal use of force ‎against black Americans and expose the bloody face of ‎the United States and its politicised use of the issue of ‎human rights to extort other nations,” said Azer.‎

Azer’s statement added that “the United States, which likes to ‎give lectures on human rights to other nations and issue ‎periodical reports on civil liberties in the world, was ‎caught red handed violating human rights and crushing ‎the peaceful protests of black Americans in the city of ‎Dallas and other US cities.”‎

Ilhami Agina, an independent MP and a member of ‎parliament’s human rights committee, also said in ‎a statement that “the excessive use of force ‎against black Americans in the US has exposed the ugly ‎face of Western regimes and that these ‎regimes are deeply involved in wide scale racial ‎discrimination.”

“[US President Barack] Obama, who came to Cairo in 2009 to ‎give us a long lecture on human rights, might have ‎forgotten that it is America that needs radical reform,” ‎said Agina.‎

Agina told reporters that he sent a letter to Egypt’s ‎foreign minister Sameh Shoukry asking him to summon ‎the US ambassador in Egypt – Stephen Beecroft – to ‎convey Egypt’s dissatisfaction with the excessive use of ‎force against blacks and urge the American ‎government to reform its record on human rights.

“Egypt is ‎now the head of the Arab summit and so it should give a ‎say on what happens in America, but if Shoukry does ‎not opt to do this, he should at least do as the US State ‎Department, which always grants itself the right to ‎comment on judicial and political issues in Egypt,” said ‎Agina.‎

Ayman Abu Ela, the parliamentary ‎spokesman of the Free Egyptians Party, told reporters ‎that he also hopes that Egypt’s parliament will hold a ‎session on America’s violations of human rights.

“The US ‎administration and media, which have always accused ‎Egypt of issuing a tough protest law have nothing to say ‎now about their police brutality against black protesters,” ‎said Abul Ela, also agreeing with other MPs that “the ‎recent incidents of excessive force and police ‎brutality in America have uncovered the falseness of ‎American democracy and its flawed reports about ‎human rights in the Arab world.”

Perhaps most US criticism of other nations means as little as these statements above in the practical rebuke and correction of abuses. Perhaps they reveal how indicative of the domestic political context each remark is made, rather than impact on international relations.

But sometimes, human rights abuses do result in international censure. Here is the Egyptian appeal:

The Egyptian parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs called on Friday for George W. Bush and Tony Blair to be tried as war criminals, saying the resounding report of a British committee investigating Britain’s participation in the war against Iraq clearly shows that there were no convincing reasons for the conflict.

“This British committee’s report – the Chilcot report – has exposed the false reasons which former US president George W. Bush and former UK prime minister Tony Blair had exploited to wage their illegitimate war against Iraq,” said the strongly-worded statement.

The parliament said that the American-led war in Iraq left more than one million Iraqis killed and millions more wounded, internally displaced or sent from their homes as refugees.

“There’s no question that George W. Bush and Tony Blair should be put on trial as war criminals not only because they are the ones who trumpeted the reasons for this war, but also because they should be held responsible for the deaths of millions of Iraqis since 2003,” the statement read.

Human rights – and their defense – are vitally important. Too important, in fact, to be left to politicians anywhere.

But without them, progress will always be limited. Empty rhetoric may be part of politics, but rhetoric sets a tone. The world is a better place even if politicians give only hypocritical lip service to human rights. Their conscience can always awaken. If so, laws and policies can change, however gradually.

Consider the alternative, if human rights are outright ignored or justified away. Sometimes, in many nations, this alternative is all too near.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Parliament, Police

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News this week prompted both a sigh and a gasp. The Supreme Constitutional Court struck down provisions of the law to elect parliament, further delaying the process. And a cabinet reshuffle appointed a new minister of the interior, with speculations on the impact.

The parliament delay was almost expected, as there appears little political or popular will to complete the democratic roadmap. Some politicians accused the state of such, as the president holds the right of legislation until parliament sits.

The new police chief was quite unexpected. A number of non-Islamist revolutionary forces demanded his dismissal over ongoing violence and neglect of human rights. The new head has a background in combatting religious extremism and is tasked as new blood in the fight against terrorism.

God, set the state right. It has shuffled and wobbled for four years now, in desperate need of stability.

As parliament laws are redrafted, make the process inclusive and legal. When a parliament sits – and may it be soon – may it be representative and effective.

As the police reconfigure, make the process professional and reformist. When the chief sets his agenda, may he train, educate, hold accountable – and stamp out the violent menace that threatens Egypt.

God, in time, reverse the reaction to these institutions. May the workings of parliament produce the gasp of achievement. May the conduct of police produce a sigh of relief.

Bring peace to Egypt, God. Bring a functioning government. Through both law and order, may the country breathe normally.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Allegiances

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Two declarations were issued this week, at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. From Sinai, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis pledged to obey the caliph of the Islamic State. From the Chamber of Commerce, a business delegation pledged to recruit other American companies to invest in Egypt.

One allegiance is to you, God, the other is to mammon. Both may be confused.

Therefore, guide them both.

A few days after the pledge to ISIS, terrorists struck at the Egyptian navy. Four boats in the Mediterranean targeted a naval vessel, opening a new chapter in the insurrection.

A few days before the pledge of investment, a UN hearing blasted the Egyptian record on human rights. But sixty-six companies targeted the private sector, opening a new chapter in the transition.

God, help Egypt to rebuild. Bring investment from abroad and from within, that a creative entrepreneurship might employ many. From a stronger economy build a stronger middle class. From a stronger middle class build a stronger civil society. And from a stronger civil society build a stronger respect for human rights.

But do not let it take that long. Amid the many troubles, hold the government accountable in treating people justly. And within these coming companies, may their corporate culture model good governance in the economic sphere.

And God, help Egypt to repel. Bring support from abroad and from within, that a humane determination might resist terrorism. From a deeper respect for human rights build a deeper sense of patriotism. From a deeper sense of patriotism build a deeper commitment to neighbor. And from a deeper commitment to neighbor build a deeper understanding of religion.

God, set the single-minded idealists of the Islamic State on the right path. Set the single-minded capitalists of the United States on the right path.

Once there, may their respective zeal and wealth benefit Egypt, the region, and the world. For without your guidance, God, they may trample it all.

Declare your goodness to Egypt, and recruit many to her aid. From abroad and from within, may all demonstrate allegiance to your principles.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Journalism, Rights Review

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Eyes were on Egypt this week, from inside and outside, to hold her accountable. May she be worthy and exceed all standards.

But some do not think so. Offended by their editors-in-chief, 400 Egyptian journalists signed a petition protesting media pledges to not undermine the government.

And in advance of a periodic human rights review by the United Nations, a consortium of NGOs and activists put forward several recommendations where they believe Egypt falls short.

Many in the UN criticized, while Egyptian officials defended their policies.

God, weigh between them, but only for good. May their disputes lead to dialogue and then to development.

Bless journalists for the courage of their convictions. Bless editors for their support of their nation. But keep the former from muckraking and the latter from sycophancy. Help the truth to be told with all transparency.

Bless activists for their dedication to human rights. Bless officials for application in difficult times. But keep the former from distortion and the latter from misrepresentation. Help life to be lived with all dignity.

But where there is fraud or injustice, God, root it out.

May those inside and outside both contribute. Make Egypt accountable, above all to your standard.

May all eyes find her worthy.



Friday Prayers for Egypt: Prison Conditions

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Reports have been ample from Egyptian prisons with accounts of mistreatment, even torture. And this week smuggled video purported a look inside, picturing squalid conditions and cramped quarters. The government denies the veracity of these sources, insisting that after the revolution a commitment to human rights has reformed the system. A visit from the National Council for Human Rights yielded conflicting testimony.

Meanwhile the broader issues of respect for human rights and the detention of thousands has taken the attention of several at the United Nations. Twenty-seven countries issued a statement against the government, and had their ambassadors summoned in return, warning them against meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs.

God, these are trying times in Egypt, with conspiracies swirling and legitimacies contested. But a nation is known by how it treats the least of its citizens. Bless those in prison. Comfort them in their troubles. Convict them of their sins. Visit them with your presence.

Give them their rights, God, and do so through the government. Do so through their lawyers. Do so through journalists and human rights activists. Egypt has a long and sordid history to overcome, and if the revolution has changed the discourse, reform will face many challenges. Empower those in the Interior Ministry who will abide by the right.

But where there is ill-treatment, and where there is fabrication, rid Egypt of both. Establish transparent systems that can hold all accountable. Remove the fog of uncertainty that clouds so many issues, that citizens of the nation would discern all truth.

And inasmuch as foreign nations claim to see clearly, may they find the log in their own eyes first. But use them, God, to pressure Egypt appropriately. It feels too much to ask the whole world system to reflect your will, but thank you that human rights are an international concern. Where there is hypocrisy, expose it. Where there is opportunism, void it. But let the light shining on Egypt reveal both its virtue and vice, that all may be clean.

May it be, God, that Egypt’s prisons are free of abuse – both now and in the future. Bless those there on both sides of the bars. No prison is wholesome, but may all emerge so. Let coming testimonies reflect this reality.


Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Egyptian Christians Killed After President’s Ouster

Copts Killed

From my article in Christianity Today, published July 9, describing both Christians and Muslims killed in a worrisome escalation of violence. But this excerpt concerns another matter for Christians in particular: Should they have joined the revolt in the first place, on Biblical grounds?

Bishop Mouneer also called the [military] action an answer to prayer, which raises certain theological questions. In Romans 13 Paul writes that Christians are to be subject to the governing authorities. Does Christian participation in a popular uprising strain this interpretation?

“The leader must support human rights,” said Bishop Marcos. “Because Morsi did not it was acceptable to work against him.”

A more nuanced position is articulated by Rev. Emad Mikhail, president of the Alexandria School of Theology.

“The Bible in the first century does not address the situation of free expression as we have in many places today,” he said. “There was no voting and no means to change the system except through violent action.

“If we vote out a president [as in modern elections] this is not understood to violate Romans 13. I consider peaceful demonstrations to be like a vote.”

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