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Sunday, 1 December 2013

Egypt – Political developments, but continued persecution.

Political developments in Egypt have raised hopes for the future of the Christian community. The committee tasked with re-writing the Egyptian constitution has voted in favour of articles that would grant religious freedom to all citizens. It also adopted a transitional article cancelling the existing requirement that Christians must obtain a special presidential permit before building or renovating a church.

These positive moves come as Egypt’s Christians continue to suffer at the hands of Islamists. For example, on 1st November a group of Islamists marched on a church in Cairo, shouting anti-Christian slogans, immediately after leaving Friday prayers at a nearby mosque. The attackers tore down a banner in front of the building and daubed the façade with graffiti insulting Christians.

The Christian community has also been beset by a spike in kidnappings since demonstrations by Islamic hardliners were broken up on 14th August. One Christian man, Hany Sedhom, endured a horrific ordeal in late September. His captors dragged him out of his car, slashed his face with a knife, hit him on the head with a rifle butt and drove him into the desert. For 48 hours he was beaten, threatened and denied food and clean water. But Hany remained steadfast; he said, “… every step of the way, every moment of pain, I could feel God there with me, telling me, ‘I’m going to save you.’”

Let those of us who also claim to be disciples of Jesus give thanks for Hany’s faith under pressure, which is typical of the trusting and non-retaliatory response of Egypt’s Christians to their recent persecutions.

Give thanks too, for the planned moves towards full religious freedom. The draft of the new Egyptian constitution is due to be completed at the end of November and will then be put to a referendum.

Pray that the final version will guarantee true freedom to Egyptian believers, and relieve them of crippling restrictions on their ministry and mission.

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