American Presbyterians who want to help Christians in Egypt must first be informed, said a PC(USA) partner in a webinar hosted by Presbyterian World Mission today.

Ramez Atallah, general director of the Bible Society of Egypt, said that Western media and governments are not providing accurate information about the situation in Egypt. The Bible Society is considered the Bible publisher for all the churches (Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic) in Egypt. The Aug. 14 destruction of two of the society’s bookstores in southern Egypt was not covered by the Western media, which is not stationed in that area, he said.

After those shops and many churches were burned, many were afraid that Christians would react with violence against Muslims. But instead, they showed restraint and followed in the peaceful footsteps of Jesus, Atallah said.

“We are thankful and praise the Lord for the actions of Christians after the attacks of the past two weeks,” he said.

The attacks, following the removal of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi as president of Egypt, concluded “a depressing year for us,” Atallah said. “When Morsi was elected the worst fears of Christians were realized … On June 30 [when mass demonstrations led to the Egyptian military’s seizure of power from Morsi] we realized and were surprised that the vast majority didn’t want radical Islam.

“We are disappointed with Western media characterizations,” Atallah added, “because they are not reflective of the reality on the ground … There are several Christians in the new cabinet. We’re very excited at what’s happening.”

American Christians in Egypt must tell their counterparts back home what is really happening in Egypt, Atallah said. They must also help Egyptians understand that the U.S. government does not represent U.S. churches.

Although there have long been misunderstandings between American and Middle Eastern Christians, the church is one body, said Amgad Beblawi, World Mission’s coordinator for the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe.

The role of the church should be clear, and all Christians should be united, he said.

Atallah asked for prayers and solidarity from American Christians for Egypt and the whole of the Middle East. “This was not a rejection of Islam,” he said. “It was a rejection of political Islam. Please don’t blame Muslims ― the problem is Muslim extremists.”  

“I think the answer is in prayer. It’s not in politics, obviously,” he said. “Pray for us. Help us in rebuilding ourselves, rebuilding our churches, our bookshops.”

Click here  to donate to help rebuild churches and Christian bookstores can be made through the PC(USA)’s partner in Egypt, the Synod of the Nile Evangelical (Presbyterian) Church.

For more information about Egypt and the PC(USA)’s mission and peacemaking efforts there, click here.