Many Christians in Egypt are concerned that members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists are poised to takeover the unstable country after a recent vote to amend Egypt's Constitution.
Nearly 80 percent of Egyptians voted over the weekend in favor of a referendum that would ease restrictions on political participation and limit the presidency to two four-year terms.
The majority of Egypt's tiny Christian community voted against the constitutional amendments.
Ramez Atallah, leader of the Bible Society of Egypt, is among the opponents.
Atallah spoke with CBN News Sr. International Correspondent George Thomas about the challenges to religious freedom in Egypt after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.
Click play for his comments.
Here is an open letter written by Atallah:
REMARKABLE TURNOUT FOR REFERENDUM
On March 19th, Egyptians turned up in unprecedented numbers and great enthusiasm to vote on a referendum for suggested changes to the Egyptian constitution. These changes were intended to make it possible to elect a new Parliament and Senate and eventually a President under terms that would be more democratic than in the past.
By voting "Yes", elections for Parliament, Senate and Presidency would take place in the very near future. The majority of those who lobbied for the “yes” vote were right wing Islamic groups headed by the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood. Since they already have nationwide grass roots networks they are organized and ready to propose viable candidates from their party across the nation. Others, who do not yet have such a network, have little chance of having enough viable candidates in time for Parliamentary elections in September.
By voting "No", these elections for would be delayed and thus allow some new parties to form and build their infrastructure in time to provide a fair choice for Egyptians. Many believed this was the only way to allow the revolutionaries’ dream for a truly secular state to be realized.
Most of the youth and demonstrators who led the Revolution, plus just about every Christian in the country voted "no".
The discouraging result of a 78% “yes” vote and a 22% “no” vote shocked Christians and all those dreaming for a country where religion would not determine political affiliation. What made things worse was that many vocal Muslim spokesmen publicly declared that this “yes” vote was a clear affirmation that the majority of Egyptians want an Islamic State!
Eighteen million people voted and four million of these said "no". Of these four million, probably about half were Christians. This means that open-minded Muslims voters in Egypt are possibly no more than 2 million. Though this is a large number, it still is a small minority of the voting public.
FEAR OF A MUSLIM TAKEOVER
For many of us, the referendum was a lithium test to determine how strong the Christian and the open-minded elements in the country really are. It is clear from the result that we represent a significant but small minority surrounded by a grassroots majority of Egyptians who probably seek a more distinctly Muslim nation.
Before the revolution hardly anyone used to vote as elections were mostly rigged. This time most Christians were motivated to vote and are now very discouraged at the result. Their dream - and that of many who were behind the Revolution - for a truly democratic secular state, has been put in question. Many wonder if their efforts and hard work to faithfully participate in the electoral process were in vain.
I am therefore writing to ask for your prayers:
- That all those who voted “no” may not give up on democracy in Egypt but will continue to be involved in the upcoming elections as much and even more than they were in this referendum.
- That Christians in Egypt may believe that God is still in control even though their recent attempts to influence the political process met with few tangible results.
- Please pray for discernment and creativity as the Bible Society team continues to develop relevant Scripture resources in response to current needs and events. (you can keep up to date on what we are doing at http://www.rebuildegypt.tenbibles.com/)
I personally believe that greater freedom in society, while certainly welcome, would not necessarily result in deeper faith. Working under tighter constraints (in a more Islamic Egypt) may actually make Christians more committed to their faith and their Lord. For example, in spite of the remarkable freedom in Western countries it's not necessarily easier for Christians there to be on fire for the Lord. Let us never forget that the Apostle Paul's deepest yearning was " to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings" (Philippians 3:11). We often want the former and forget the latter.
So even though I was personally discouraged by the results of the referendum, I have a deep conviction that God is in control. I also have much hope that - whatever political changes take place in Egypt - the Gospel will flourish, as it has for centuries past under many oppressive regimes.
Thank you for your prayers and support during these turbulent days in Egypt, the Middle East and North Africa.