On a recent solidarity visit to the Synod of the Nile, the PC(USA)’s partner church in Egypt, a delegation including Moderator Neal Presa, had the opportunity to meet with Egyptian brothers and sisters and to hear their stories. This is one story in an ongoing series.
“Yesterday was like a sports crowd after a momentous, come-from-behind victory; the throng in Tahrir Square, Itehadeya Palace and all over Egypt seemed unable to stop celebrating its success at having overthrown the Egyptian president Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.” This news came in from Rev. Andrea Zaki, director of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), within hours of the news.
Since 1960, CEOSS has been working with the poor and the marginalized within Egyptian society to promote its mission to transform society by nurturing moral and spiritual awareness, enhancing a sense of belonging, respect of diversity, addressing conflict and advancing social justice for individuals and communities.
While some in the United States are calling the events of the past week a ‘military coup,’ those on the ground in Egypt are rejecting such a label.
Vivien Zaki from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church based Citizenship Committee—who is not related to Andrea Zaki—expressed the dismay of many Egyptians upon hearing this ‘slant’ on the news as it has reached American shores, and asked friends in the United States and the PC(USA) to please help amplify the story that those who have been working hard toward such change are trying to share.
The Citizenship Committee—a unique ‘coming together’ of Christians from Coptic, Catholic and Protestant churches—has worked over the past two years, since the events of January 2011, to educate, train, and equip Egypt’s Christian citizens to participate in the changing political climate. It has also worked to serve the larger society, setting up ‘mobile clinics’ to treat the wounded—regardless of faith or affiliation—after protests in the streets have turned violent.
Egyptians, according to the Citizenship Committee’s Zaki, are offended by the allegations of the U.S. administration and CNN that are claiming the events as a ‘military coup’ rather than an ‘uprising of the people.’ For her part, Zaki and her fellow Christians in the Citizenship Committee are “so proud and happy and grateful to our great almighty God and our great military who wouldn’t accept outside biased pressure and took the side of the Egyptian people.”
Ramez Atallah, General Director of the Bible Society of Egypt, was quick to weigh in on the current events as well.
“During the January 2011 ‘revolution,’ the exhilaration of the crowds was mainly because they felt united together as Egyptians regardless of their social, economic, political or religious situation or views. When the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties won the majority in the new parliament and had one of their own elected as President, they quickly turned it into an autocratic one-party rule and hijacked the revolution with its ‘Egypt for all’ emphasis. Their attempt to impose political Islam on Egypt is one of the major causes of the present very widespread revolt.”
Atef Gendy, President of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC), sent a letter to friends and supporters, calling Christians and Muslims who demonstrated together in the streets to avoid violence and destruction but to continue to persevere in the important work of pushing for reforms that are ‘fair, legal and logical.’
The ETSC has been preparing, teaching and equipping pastors and leaders for the Egyptian Church and the Arab world since its founding in 1863.
“We see that religious institutions cannot dispense with their moral and prophetic responsibility in exposing mistakes and corruption,” shared Gendy. “[The protestors] deserve the support of everyone and of all civil and social institutions, including the religious ones,” concluded Gendy.
CEOSS’s Zaki had a specific request of friends and partners to join with them in celebration.
“Let us all rejoice for these unprecedented events taking place in Egypt now,” said Zaki. “Let us all pray that we stay united to contribute to building a new Egypt where all people, regardless of their affiliations, live peacefully.”
Egypt is a country with a long history and significant contributions to human civilization contributions that the people of Egypt are not content to leave simply to ‘history’ as they seek, through this movement, to sow the seeds of a new future, one that appears to have found fertile ground in Egyptian soil.