(Photo: Open Doors USA)
Whether or not Christians will have a voice in the political landscape of Egypt is at stake during the presidential election taking place in the country Wednesday and Thursday. In addition, persecution against Christians may worsen depending on the outcome, said Open Doors USA president Carl Moeller.
"It's very important that given the precarious place the Christian community has in Egyptian society and the variety of political movements that are anti-Christian in that country, that the Christians could potentially be a key and pivotal minor component in sheer numbers, but a very critical component in the political dynamics," Moeller told The Christian Post on Monday.
"The persecution can certainly become worse. One would expect that if a more hardline Islamist was elected president the conditions for Christians would worsen," the persecution watchdog head stated. "The only possible solution to that would be that Christians become a part of a minor party in the government coalition that would allow them to have more influence in the parliament and the social policies of the country."
Still considered by many as the intellectual heart of the Islamic world, Egypt will potentially experience the first open and free election of a new president after 60 years of military coups and manipulated elections.
After the downfall of Hosni Mubarak in February of last year, 30 years of repressive rule has been put to a test by a pro-democracy revolution that is making waves in the Middle East. However, how much democracy will actually be a part of Egypt's future is still unclear.
"Open Doors is praying for, number one, a peaceful transition. Number two, we are praying with the Christians of Egypt that the Christian community would have a voice in the future of their nation," Moeller said. "Third, that the Church in Egypt would experience continued growth and evangelistic opportunities within the Muslim community."
Persecution of Coptic Christians (the primary denomination) in Egypt was kept to sporadic violence under the Mubarak regime. However, since his overthrow, observers have been troubled by the rising tide of anti-Christian violence in the country. Egypt's military serving as the country's ruling party since Mubarak's departure has taken part in the violence, which has resulted in many deaths.
Open Doors USA, which equips Christians to evangelize in faith-restricted countries, ranked Egypt as having the highest level of persecution among Arab Spring countries in its annual "World Watch List" released earlier this year.
Christians are particularly fearful of their future in Egypt, as the Muslim Brotherhood has won the majority of seats in parliamentary elections. Christians fear the Brotherhood will incorporate some or all variations of Islamic Sharia law into politics and government action.
Moeller argues that it is Islamic extremism, both in religious and family pressure, that poses the biggest threat to the future of Christianity in the Middle East.
"As those governments become more aligned with the radical Islamism elements within them, within their societies, it may well be that there's more and more government sanctioned and sponsored persecution in those countries," said Moeller in a previous interview with CP.
Nevertheless, Moeller told CP on Monday that Christians in Egypt are cautiously optimistic about the coming election.
"I just received an email from a friend in Egypt who asked that we pray for their country as they elect their president for the first time in their long history. They are optimistic and hopeful, but at the same time they are very realistic when it comes to who are the leading candidates and what are the platforms," he explained.
"It's not a given that the most Islamic fundamentalist candidate will win. There's a possibility that a coalition of secularists and Christians will present a substantial voting block that they might have an influence on the outcome of this election."
He is hopeful that a coalition of Christians and secularists can serve as either an opposition party or play a substantial role in government.