(Photo: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Amid intensifying civil unrest and government crackdown in Egypt, two Christian groups in the United Kingdom plan to hold an interdenominational day of prayer for believers in the north African country.
U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide and United Action for Egyptian Christians are host of the day of prayer for Christians in Egypt on Saturday. Participants of the London event will pray for persecuted Christians – 23 Coptic Christians were killed and 80 injured on New Year’s Eve in a church bombing – as well as for the stability of the country given the current riots and political demonstrations across Egypt.
“Egypt is at a critical time in its history and it is more important than ever that we join Christians in Egypt in praying for the future of their country,” said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide. “We look forward to welcoming Christians of all denominations as they join with us in standing in solidarity with the Church in Egypt at this crucial time.”
Thousands of angry Egyptians have taken to the streets over the past few days in major cities across the country to protest against the government. Demonstrators in Cairo and Alexandria were reported to have thrown rocks at security forces in Cairo, according to CNN. Police forces, in return, have used tear gas and water guns against the crowd.
The protesters are demonstrating against government restrictions on freedom and lack of economic equality. There has been a widening gap between the rich and poor in Egypt in recent years. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled for 30 years, is the target of the people’s wrath. Protesters demand an end to Mubarak’s authoritarian rule.
"We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protesters and we call on the Egyptian government to do everything within its power to restrain its security forces," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday. "At the same time, protesters should also refrain from violence and express themselves peacefully."
Clinton said the protests show “deep grievances within Egyptian society and the Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away.”
Other Arab countries have also seen uprising recently, including in Jordan, Yemen, Algeria and Tunisia. The common factor shared by protesters in these countries is that they are all basically pro-democracy protests.
"They all want the same," said Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in the Middle East, to CNN. "They're all protesting about growing inequalities, they're all protesting against growing nepotism. The top of the pyramid was getting richer and richer."
She added, "Fundamentally it's a question of dignity. People's dignity has been under assault for decades.”
The Day of Prayer for Egypt event in London this Saturday will begin with an ecumenical service led by Bishop Angaelos, head of the Coptic Church in the U.K. Dr. Raafat Girgis, a leading expert on the history of Christianity in Egypt, and Ibrahim Habib of United Copts of Great Britain, will discuss the increasing tense situation that Egyptian Christians live in.
Testimonies from Egyptian converts and worship during the event will take place in both Arabic and English.