The Arab Spring quickly became the winter of discontent for most of the Middle East as Arab strongmen were toppled and in many cases replaced by fundamentalists. Nowhere has this been more true than in Egypt, where just this week, the military that had controlled the nation for decades under Sadat and Mubarak, retook power from the Muslim Brotherhood. The euphoria of millions of people celebrating the Mubarak downfall was cheered by most of the West as a sign of true democracy. However, it only took the democratically elected regime of Prime Minister Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood a few short months before they started implementing policies, restricting freedom and devolving into an increasingly Sharia law state that made Mubarak’s military controlled government look tame in comparison.
How and why did this happen? Thomas Jefferson said long ago
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.”
What Jefferson meant is that democracy cannot exist with an uninformed and illiterate populace. With only 48.3 percent of Egypt being literate, and the majority of the rural and urban poor relying on clerics, and in some cases radical clerics, it was inevitable that the majority would vote in a religious totalitarian regime. This, by its nature, contradicts the basic principles of democracy.
Millions of people took to the streets celebrating the coup d’etat this week in Egypt. They are celebrating the lesser of two evils, namely a tamer, more pragmatic military that will attempt to create stability and reinstitute a functioning economy and general state of equality. They face massive challenges and hopefully will be fairer and more even-handed than the Mubarak regime was. Signs that they will put ElBaradei, the former Nobel Peace Prize winner, in as Prime Minister bodes well for the country. The new government must do something about corruption, kleptocracy and nepotism. The increasingly educated urban youth population is suffering under horrible unemployment and will continue to demand reform and change. The rural and uneducated poor will continue to seek justice through fundamentalist clerics seeking Sharia law. With these two powder kegs ready to blow at any moment, the military will have to be firm and resolute, but move quickly to build more democratic structures and economic opportunities.
The population that has suffered the most since the Arab Spring has been the Christian minority. There has been a diaspora of believers that have fled the country anticipating further persecution from the Brotherhood and more radical factions. We need to pray that the newly installed government will protect the Christian population and create freedoms for all minorities.
The US and its Western allies should invest in helping build more schools and creating jobs rather than just appeasing the military with support for their armaments. If the new government can create stability and equilibrium, the Church should work towards developing strong local Church-based initiatives in economic development and education. Helping the Egyptian church to empower and train their children and young people to be a Daniel generation that can, as minorities, provide wisdom and council to a nation seeking answers in challenging times. OneHope has invested in youth empowerment camps and programs to help the Church listen to and invest in the next generation. The Church in Egypt, in many cases, has followed the society’s lead in marginalizing young leadership. They should abandon this practice and raise up young Shadrach, Meshach and Abednegos that ‘understand the ways of the Babylonians better than the Babylonians’, but know when not to ‘eat the King’s meat’. A powerful generation of young Christians could be salt and light in a nation that has lost much of its savor and is in a great darkness.
Let’s pray for peace and wisdom for the new government and especially as believers pray and invest in a wonderful Egyptian church that could have its finest hour shining bright the hope, faith and love of Jesus to a nation looking for answers.