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Egyptian unrest causing Christian exodus, bishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, November 25, 2011 p 6. November 25, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East.
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Bishop Mouneer Anis

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Four days of protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square have left an estimated 33 dead and 1750 injured as demonstrators call for an end to military rule in Egypt.  Crowds estimated at over 100,000 have gathered in the central Cairo square, scene of the protests that brought down the government of Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.

Television footage of the demonstrations show protestors hurling fire bombs and paving stones at police, who have responded with tear gas and batons to clear the square.  On 21 Nov 2011, Egypt’s civilian cabinet offered its resignation to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in protest to the army crackdown.

The bloodshed comes only a week before Egypt’s parliamentary elections are set to begin. Reuters has reported that while the army stated the riots would not postpone the elections, the unrest could deter voters from going to the polls in Cairo.

The Cairo newspaper al-Masry al-Youm reported on Monday that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had met with the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and have agreed to speed up the process towards civilian rule.  The Muslim Brotherhood urged protesters to show restraint, and said it would not participate in the demonstrations. However, other Islamist groups have stated that they will join democracy activists and Copts in the protests against military rule.

The Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis has asked for prayer for his country.  In a 16 Nov 2011 letter sent to the Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association in Britain – before the latest riots – Dr. Anis wrote the unrest had many causes.

“Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Syrians, Jordanians, Iraqis, Moroccans, Yemini, and

Bahrainis are rising up, calling for freedom, transparency and democracy. Many of these people of the Middle East have suffered under oppressive and corrupt governments. They feel that the time has come to determine their own destiny.”

“On one hand, this is very hopeful and encouraging,” the bishop wrote. But “on the other hand, this brings concern, apprehension and even fear. There are those who rode the waves of these uprisings and have called for Islamic (not secular, nondemocratic) governments.”

“Many moderate Muslims and Christians are concerned because they see the examples of Islamic states like Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.”

He added that almost 60 per cent of the population of the Middle East is less than 30 years of age. “The problem of unemployment, the rise in the cost of food, and the lack of good education hits them hard. This is a major reason for these uprisings.”

Dr. Anis added that in the “last ten months we also experienced a rise in fanaticism. This was manifested in demolishing and burning of churches, as well as protesting for the appointment of a Christian local governor. Egyptian Christians, overcoming the barrier of fear in which they lived for so many years, are now bold to demonstrate against injustice. As a result of this the clashes at Maspero happened and resulted in the death of 27 and over 318 injured.”

The unrest had also led to many Christians leaving Egypt, Palestine and Iraq for the West.  “I cannot imagine the Middle East, where Jesus lived and walked, being without Christians. It would never be the same. The future can be dim, but it can also carry hope for the church.”

“We trust that God is in charge and we are in His hands. His promise is that ‘the gates of hell will never overcome’ His Church,” Dr. Anis said.

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