In the 1980s, thousands of Egyptian Salafi (‘pure Islam’) jihadists went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. As the veterans started returning home to Egypt in the 1990s, domestic terrorism escalated, so President Mubarak blacklisted some 3000 members of Salafi jihadist groups, preventing their return to Egypt. However, Egypt’s new ruling military council recently removed nearly 2000 names from that list. Thousands of jihadists have returned since to Egypt from Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Kenya, Iran and London. The spirit of jihad is returning to Egypt.
Furthermore, the new military-led government has pledged to normalise relations with Iran and to open Egypt’s border permanently with Hamas-controlled Gaza. Egyptians will go to the polls in September. Leading presidential candidate, Amr Moussa (74) — a former foreign minister (1991-2001) and the outgoing head of the Arab League — has promised that if elected he will ‘reset’ Egypt’s foreign policy regarding Israel to better ‘reflect the consensus of the people’. The spirit of belligerence is returning to Egypt.
Neither bodes well for Egypt’s minority Christians.
SERIOUS ESCALATION AS CHURCHES ATTACKED IN CAIRO
On Friday 6 May some 3000 Salafis, many dressed in Taliban-style Islamic garb, descended on St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo demanding to see Camilia Shehata and Wafaa Constantine, both wives of Coptic clergy, who they claim converted to Islam. The next day Camilia appeared on Egyptian TV once again, confirming that she never converted to Islam, but is and always has been a Christian. Whilst the Islamic narrative — that these women converted to Islam and are held by the church against their will — has been proved to be a total myth, it is still being used by Islamists to incite mob violence against the church.
[Background: IRAQ & EGYPT: al-Qaeda declares war on Christians.
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 082, Wed 17 Nov 2010]
On Saturday 7 May some 3000 Salafis descended on the Church of St Mina in the Imbaba area of Cairo at about 5:30pm, demanding the release of a Christian girl named Abir who they claimed had married a Salafi and was being detained and tortured inside the church. By 7:30pm the rumour had drawn a massive crowd of agitated Muslims who were chanting Islamic slogans, shouting Osama bin Laden’s name and patrolling up and down the streets.
Attempting to dispel the rumour, senior Coptic clergy permitted a group of Islamic imams to search the church property for the woman. Though the imams reported to the crowd that the woman was definitely not in the building, it was to no avail. By 8:30pm the Muslims were rioting, firing guns and hurling Molotov cocktails at Coptic churches, houses and businesses. The Church of St Mary & St Abanob and St Mary’s Church were also torched. The army eventually arrived at 10pm but only to watch, as they were totally unable (or unwilling) to control the situation. In all, 12 Copts were killed and 240 injured, 65 of whom medical sources report had been shot.
On Sunday 8 May thousands of traumatised Copts and sympathetic Muslims marched peaceably to the headquarters of Egyptian TV & Radio and the Ministry of Information in Maspero. Though the army intervened with tasers and hostile local Muslims hurled rocks, the protesters pressed on. They settled down eventually for an indefinite sit-in, demanding the resignation of Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi and trials for those involved in instigating sectarian attacks. Hundreds of Coptic Christians also guarded St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo as Coptic Pope Shenouda III delivered his weekly Sunday sermon to nearly 10,000 church members. Egyptian police and armed forces were also there in force. Pope Shenouda’s sermon was entitled ‘Forgive’.
Meanwhile, senior military officials have falsely claimed that the Copts fired first from within the church, and the Salafis have vowed to return next Friday (13 May) for another demonstration to ‘free’ Christian converts to Islam. This is all cleverly and strategically camouflaged pure incitement to violence.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO —
- intervene for his Church in Egypt, drawing the Church to prayer and then delivering the Church in answer to prayer, thereby increasing faith and glorifying the LORD.
‘. . . we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.’ (2 Corinthians 1:9 ESV)
- use these violent times for his divine sovereign purpose: to sanctify the Church; to awaken many Muslims to the fundamental differences between the Mosque and the Church, Islam and Christianity, Muhammad and Jesus Christ, the Qur’an and the Gospel of grace.