The Future of Christians in Egypt: 'The Obstacle Is Fear'
As Egypt's torrential state of instability continues, the country's Christians continue to fear their fate in the North African country that they have called home since biblical times.
The country, in its quest for democracy, has seen a wave of positive and negative outcomes of the 2012 presidential election, which, in itself, is a large step from the dictatorial rule of former President Hosni Mubarak, who was removed during the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.
Currently, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood is the president of the country, although critics are weary of the interim military government's willingness to turn presidential power over to Morsi.
Even if Morsi were given enough presidential power to rule the country, he may not be keen on free Christian worship in the country, allegedly telling a journalist in a private meeting in May that Christians should "convert, pay tribute, or leave."
Additionally, the ruling military council has recently deconstructed Egypt's parliament, as well as the country's 100-person constitution council, making hope for a true democracy, as opposed to a continued military dictatorship, seem dismal.
In spite of these seemingly bleak circumstances, Brian Stiller, ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), argues that Christians need to stay in the country in spite of its continued instability.
"The obstacle is fear. That's what will inhibit the Christian presence. If people can believe that religious liberty will be a part of the future, and trusting that the Lord will enable them to be a witness, I think that mitigates fear," Stiller told The Christian Post.
Stiller went on to tell CP that Egypt needs Christians and their economic prowess in order to survive.
"[Egypt's] best schools [and] some of its best hospitals are Christian-based and Christian-run. Also, 32 percent of businesses are owned by Christians, so the presence of the Christian community I think is strong enough to keep any government from writing a constitution that would be injurious to Christians," he added.
Although Stiller maintains optimism for the future of Christianity in Egypt, he does assert that there are a number of "ifs" which have yet to be confirmed in the future of the country.
The questions that remain include: will the military council reinstate parliament; will it form a new constitutional committee, and if so, will Christians be aptly represented; and will the military government allow President Morsi to rule the country?
Aidan Clay, regional manager for Middle Eastern affairs at the International Christian Concern organization, told The Christian Post that he believes Christians in the country will encounter the same obstacles that they have in the past, during the rule of Mubarak.
The country, with a Muslim majority, has previously targeted orthodox Christian groups for their adversity to the Muslim religion, either slamming Christians with blasphemy laws or breaking up Christian rallies through brute force.
"I think the military is going to hold on to as much power as they can, and I think that it's difficult to see what the outcome will be from that," Clay told CP.
Although the country's future is unknown, Stiller recommends that Egypt's Christians remain at home, as "the call of the Gospel is to give witness where we are."