Note from Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, ABCNJ Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor: During these days of traumatic persecution and distress for Egyptian Christians, and other Christians in the Middle East, I would encourage our region's churches to devote a special time of intercessory prayer for these, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray for their courage and faithfulness under duress, their physical safety, their emotional strength, and the protection of their church facilities. Below are two Baptist World Alliance pieces that may aid you in sharing about this situation.
Baptists in Egypt are requesting prayer for their nation and its Christian community in the wake of the recent clashes and violence in the North African country. More than 800 persons have reportedly been killed.
Mounir Malaty, pastor of First Baptist Church in Cairo, reported that at least two Baptist churches were attacked, the Baptist Church in El Minya and the Baptist Church in Beni Mazar. In Beni Mazar, Islamic fundamentalists burned the church sanctuary, demolished office and classroom furnishings and fixtures and destroyed Christian emblems outside the church building. The pastor and his family, who live on the church property, escaped injury.
Malaty said "anger, killing, blood... are the words you hear in Egypt now. Innocent people are being killed and large numbers of the protestors are also dying."
Botros Faltaos, president of the Bible Baptist Denomination, based in the city of Alexandria, asked the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) to "please pray for us." Muslim fundamentalists, he said, "are attacking our churches." He said more than 80 churches of various Christian traditions, including Baptist churches, have been attacked, many of them burned.
Faltaos said there have been attempts by fundamentalists to attack and burn some of his churches but they were thwarted by moderate Muslims from doing so. "There is fear and unrest," he told the BWA. Faltaos claimed that the police are overwhelmed "so we try our best to protect the churches and worshipers. Please pray for us and for the suffering Christians all over Egypt."
BWA General Secretary Neville Callam expressed "profound regret at the injuries and loss of life" and called on Baptists everywhere to place the crises in North Africa and the Middle East as matters of urgent concern on their prayer calendar. Callam urged that Baptists "pray for those who have experienced loss of loved ones and destruction of property." Callam also requested prayer for the many who have been displaced by the violent conflict.
Callam pointed out that "We have Baptists in many of these countries that experience turmoil, and in a special way we want to remember the people of Egypt and Syria."
The BWA leader reiterated a call for peaceful resolution he made more than two years ago when Egypt was in the midst of its 'Arab Spring.' "We urge the protesters to ensure that their protest is based on the principle of nonviolence and we expect the Egyptian government to take the necessary steps to end the conflict peacefully. We expect no less from a country with as long and proud a history as Egypt, which has contributed so much to the cultural heritage of humankind."
Tony Peck, BWA regional secretary for Europe and general secretary of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), expressed horror at the events in Egypt. The EBF includes Baptist bodies in the Middle East and North Africa. Peck blamed the violence on those who vent anger at Christians for their perceived support for the military crackdown that has led to the most recent escalation in violent clashes. Peck joined Christian leaders in Egypt in "calling for a speedy and peaceful end to the violence."
Violence in Egypt flared after its president, Mohamed Morsi, was removed from power on July 3 by the military and placed under house arrest. The actions of the military were followed by demonstrations and clashes throughout Egypt between supporters and opponents of the move by the military.
Egypt has an estimated population of 84 million. Approximately 90 percent are identified as Muslim, nine percent as Coptic Christians, and one percent as other Christian traditions, including Baptists.
Baptist World Alliance® © August 24, 2013
Resolution Adopted by the BWA General Council in Ocho Rios, Jamaica July 1-6, 2013
Resolution #10 Crisis in the Middle East and North Africa
The General Council of the Baptist World Alliance meeting in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, July 1-6, 2013:
ACKNOWLEDGES that impact of the “Arab Spring” in the Middle East and North Africa has led to an increase in the persecution of minorities, including Christians;
NOTES that radical police and military actions have gone unpunished by governments of several Middle Eastern Countries;
LAMENTS that Christians have been targeted and persecuted in contexts where they have been perceived to be loyal to specific regimes in several countries;
REGRETS that attacks by Islamic extremists have victimized men, women and children in more than one location;
RECOGNIZES that Lebanon and other countries in the region are having an influx of refugees from Iraq and Syria;
RECOMMENDS Christian ministry to all refugees and pledges to pray for Lebanese Baptists and other Christians in the region who are ministering to refugees in the name of Jesus Christ;
URGES governments of the Middle East to engage religious minority groups located within their borders in the process of pursuing measures to protect them against actions that target Christians and other minorities;
ENCOURAGES Baptists to pray for the safety and well being of our brothers and sisters in the faith;
URGES the United Nations and national governments to work cooperatively to assist those countries in the protection of all the rights of all their citizens;
CALLS UPON governments to refrain from sending or selling armaments to the forces in conflict in Syria and instead support the efforts of those who are working toward a negotiated peace and provide essential humanitarian resources to assist refugees in this situation of conflict; and
COMMENDS and supports the efforts of moderate religious people everywhere who advocate for the just treatment of all citizens throughout the Middle East and North Africa.