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Middle East

Egyptian Christians Reflect on Moment in History

Born and baptized in blood, the Church in Egypt is hardly a newcomer to hardship, notes Egypt's Anglican bishop.

As Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak lets go of his 29-year hold on power, Christian leaders are seeking God's protection for their nation and trusting in his providence throughout both the recent tumult and the still-murky future.

On Thursday, the Evangelical Community in Egypt called on local churches to unite in prayer on Thursday, February 17, and the following Sunday "for the safety and security of our country."

In an open letter to Egypt's Vice President, General Omar Suleiman, Evangelical Community Acting President Andrea Zaki Stephanous paid tribute to both the "courage and decency of the youth's movement" and "the role of our armed forces in protecting the safety and security of the nation."

Bishop Mouneer H. Anis, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt, says that Egypt's church has a long history of prospering amid trials.

"I know the future of the church is in the hand of the Lord," Anis told CT on Thursday evening. "Our church in Egypt, which was started back in 61 A.D. with St. Mark, experienced hardships, persecution … Alexandria, which is the beginning of the church, was actually baptized by the blood of many martyrs and saints. And persecution actually helped the church to grow."

According to the 2010 Operation World, Egypt has around 4,000 Anglicans. Though the ultimate shape of a post-Mubarak government isn't yet clear, Anis sees both blessings and challenges ahead.

"I think, if Egypt will become a secular country, that really respects the rights of citizenship, there is a potential for the church to grow," Anis said, "but also there is a potential for the church to relax, like what happened in the West, without too many hardships or challenges."

"If Egypt becomes an Islamic state—for example, like Iran—I think there will be difficulties, suffering," Anis said. "The church may become less in number, but I'm sure it will continue to be a faithful remnant, like the church in Iran now."

As Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Anis also oversees the Anglican Church of Iran. "The church is very small, but the faith is there. The faithful remnants are there."

In his letter to General Suleiman, Stephanous expressed the Evangelical Community's desire join the dialogue about Egypt's future. Stephanous noted that the youth of a number of churches had helped "eliminate the effects of vandalism and destruction," and appealed to more evangelicals to get involved in the cleanup.

Anis said that the church's task is the same, no matter who dominates the next era of Egyptian history.

"Like Jesus—he went around doing good," Anis said. "We also need to go around to do good. Heal the sick and feed the hungry and preach the gospel. And I think that is our mission whatever happens. We should not be passive, we should be active, we should participate in the selection and election of our new president and we should cooperate with the new government. We need to do our part and God will do his part."

"We are not afraid," Anis said. "Whatever the outcome, the church is his, and we belong to him, and whatever he will allow, we will go through."

Related Elsewhere:

Christianity Today reported earlier on how Egyptian Christians are joining calls for reform.

CT also has a special section on Egypt.

Stephanous earlier wrote on The Holistic Ministry of the Church.

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