(Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
The Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA is calling on Christians to pray for a period of calm in Egypt in light of a volatile political atmosphere and massive protests planned for Cairo on Tuesday. Demonstrations and violence have been on the increase since President Mohammed Morsi issued a decree last Thursday that gives him more legislative power and protects his decisions from any judicial oversight.
"We as Christians need to pray that that there will not be mass killings on the scale we saw at the start of the revolution almost two years ago," Open Doors communications director Jerry Dykstra told The Christian Post Monday. "Egypt needs a period of calm, not more violence. But obviously Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have hijacked the high hopes of the revolution while increasing the persecution of Christians."
On Monday, Morsi told the nation's top judges that he did not infringe on their authority when he declared that he has near absolute powers, The Associated Press reported. A prolonged showdown between supporters and opponents of the Islamist leader appears inevitable. The large protests planned for Tuesday could be extremely intense, according to observers.
In Cairo's Tahrir square, protests continued Monday for a fifth day as tens of thousands filled the location where the country's revolution took place and scene of ongoing demonstrations. Protestors are demanding that Morsi reverse his proclamation that he has near-absolute powers.
Clashes have erupted throughout the country between three different groups involving supporters and opponents of Morsi, along with police and military forces, in some cases fighting against both groups, according to an anonymous Christian leader whose name cannot be revealed for security reasons.
"We Christians are not sure, together with most Egyptians, if we should actually take the risk and go to work and drive through the city, or should we just stay at home waiting for the unknown," blogs the Christian leader. "Sunday night, I visited a group of friends from church. The host family lives in a 17th floor apartment with an overwhelming view from their balcony over the Nile and the city of Cairo.
"To live, drive and walk among the 18 million Cairo residents is quite hectic, but to get to see them from above is different and emotional. The roaring noises below struck my ears, as I started to cry over my injured city and wounded country. 'Lord,' I prayed. 'Will Egypt have some days of rest one day?' I asked."
He adds: "The struggles of the previous days, together with the concerns of tomorrow and the days to follow, bring pain and agony to my heart. The cold winds of the evening blew on my face as I raised my eyes to heaven and prayed for Egypt. Then I was reminded by the Almighty that my help does come from the Lord the Creator of heaven and earth. He whispered in my ears, in my moments of desperation: 'Be still and know that I am God.' Psalm 46:10. Claim this with me, as we face the uncertainties of tomorrow and the coming days over this latest crisis in Egypt."
Dykstra echoed the Christian leader's prayer request. Egypt is ranked No. 15 on the Open Doors World Watch List of 50 countries which are the worst persecutors of Christians. "Christians face so much uncertainty. It seems every day brings a new crisis," he said. "Pray for Christians to stand strong in their faith and in the promises of God. Pray for wisdom for those who are thinking of joining the protest against Morsi. Pray that the protests will not fan the flames of hatred."
He said he was also hoping that the meeting on Monday between Morsi and the senior judges would help defuse the crisis over the president's seizure of powers.
Dykstra said he is also praying that Morsi will not become the "new Islamic Mubarak."