(Photo: AP Images / Ben Curtis)
While many are celebrating the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, some human rights groups are being more cautious in welcoming the news.
David J. Kramer, executive director of Freedom House, praised the Egyptian people for their “remarkable strength and perseverance” during the past 18 days of anti-government protests.
“Freedom House celebrates with them as they take the first step on the path to democratic reform,” he said.
Egypt’s vice president, Omar Suleiman, announced on Friday Mubarak’s resignation in a short statement delivered on state television. Mohamend El Baradei, the Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize winner, praised the moment in his country’s history saying, “This country has been liberated.”
Persecution watchdog Open Doors USA, however, was less quick to offer its congratulations to the North African people.
Dr. Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors USA, expressed concerns for the future of the 10 million Christians there.
“Given recent polling data, if an election were to be held tomorrow, it's quite likely that Islamic extremists would have a significant – if not dominant – role to play in the new government,” he told Mission Network News.
And if that were to happen, the Christian minority would suffer more hardships than they already have been enduring.
Moeller cited a recent Pew Research Center poll that revealed that 84 percent of Muslims in Egypt would favor the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion. Also, 95 percent of Muslims said it is good that Islam plays a large role in politics. Notably, a majority of Muslims in Egypt said they don’t believe there is a struggle between those who want to modernize their country and Islamic fundamentalists.
Some conservative U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern that the presidential resignation may give way to a radical Islamic state.
“We must also urge the unequivocal rejection of any involvement by the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists who may seek to exploit and hijack these events to gain power, oppress the Egyptian people and do harm to Egypt’s relationship with the United States, Israel and other free nations,” Republican Rep. Lleana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) said Friday in response to the latest news.
President Barack Obama, who was in a meeting when the historic announcement was made, expressed, “This is not the end of Egypt’s transition. It’s a beginning.”
He continued, “I’m sure there will be difficult days ahead and many questions remain unanswered. But I’m confident that people of Egypt can find the answers and can do so peacefully, constructively and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks.”
In the days leading up to the announcement, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for Mubarak, who has led Egypt for 30 years, to make steps towards a peaceful transition. After Mubarak announced Thursday night that, while he was delegating power to his vice president, he was not stepping down, Obama challenged the Egyptian president to spell out exactly how he planned to respond his people’s call for a new government.
Now that Egypt's presidential position is vacant, Obama is calling on the military to deliver a “credible” transition that protects Egyptians’ rights, lifts the emergency law which imposes on citizens' civil rights, revises the country’s constitution and culminates in an open and fair election.
Mubarak has left Cairo to his home in Sharm el-Sheik, according to the New York Times. In Suleiman’s statement, he announced that power will be given over to Egypt’s Armed Forces Supreme Council.
Most Americans are divided over what this moment means for the United States. More than half of the respondents (58 percent) in a Pew Research Center poll feel the protests which seized the streets and spilled out to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter for 18 days will have little effect on the United States.
Of the 22 percent of respondents who believe the protests hold some significance for America, the majority believe its impact will be negative.
Faith leaders have expressed uncertainty for the country’s future and are urging prayer for Christians living within the country's borders.
Calling prayer the number one weapon during this transitional period, Moeller said, “We need to remember the church. We need to remember that the Christians in Egypt face the 'frying pan and the fire.' Their hope is in Jesus Christ and in His sovereignty, but the reality for our brothers and sisters in Egypt is that they face an increasingly uncertain future."
Egypt is ranked No. 19 on Open Doors’ 2011 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.