Monday, April 20, 2015

Egypt Part II

Yesterday Michael and I had the opportunity to listen to the president of the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo who spoke at the Calvin Theological Seminary.  This is the seminary that I hope to meet and partner with starting in June.  It was good to hear his perspective on the challenges and opportunities for the Church in Egypt.

He reported on a number of things, one of which is the continued drop of the number of Christians in the Middle East:
  • In 1950, sixty percent of Lebanon was Christian.  Now it is 30%.
  • In Palestine, 30% of the population was Christian.  Now it is less than 1%.
  • In Iraq, 12% was Christian.  Now it is 2%.
  • In Syria, 12% was Christian.  Now it is 2%.
However, in Egypt, the number of Christians continues to remain at between 12-15%.  While many Christians are fleeing the area due to growing persecution, the Egyptian Christians seem to be standing firm.

Since the Arab Spring (revolutions that have taken place since 2011), there have been increased challenges for Christians, including greater restrictions on religious freedom, increased discrimination against women, increased attacks on the Christian faith in the media, greater intensive teaching of Islam in schools, burning and destroying of Christian churches, and the attacking of wealthy Christians and eviction of poor Christians.  [Interesting to note that when Islam arrived in Egypt in 600 AD, the choices given to people were to convert to Islam or to pay high taxes.  Consequently, only the wealthy were able to "afford" to be Christian.]

The Arab Spring was hijacked by Islamic Fundamentalists approximately one month after it started and has resulted in the spread of poverty due to the lack of basic supplies; prices have been rising as inflation rises; unemployment is rising as tourism has dropped; and there have been infrastructure issues as electricity is now going off regularly, possibly due to the smuggling out of oil to Gaza. There are approximately 1800 tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, through which food and weapons are smuggled.

There has been great opportunities for the Christian Church in Egypt to revisit the message of the Gospel, looking toward peace and forgiveness, and how to love their Muslim neighbor.  He asked that we continue to pray for the Church in Egypt and the Seminary, for peace and opportunities for the message of the whole Gospel to go to the whole people.  He specifically said that the seminary is looking at Market Theology, making theological education more practical and less theoretical, which encouraged me.  I personally am looking forward to the opportunity to partner with my brothers and sisters in Christ in Egypt through Church-based Business as Mission. I hope to see businesses develop and grow, recognizing the great opportunities for Marketplace Ministers to bear witness to Christ in the Marketplace.