Described in media reports as “one of the worst acts of violence against Egyptian Christians in modern history,” Christians on a peaceful protest march were ruthlessly beaten, shot and run over by tanks on Sunday evening, October 9, leaving 26 dead and hundreds wounded. The protests came in response to a September 30 attack in Upper Egypt on Mar Gerges Church building, which was burned down along with several Christian-owned homes and businesses in Elmarenab village in Aswan. This was the third church in Egypt in seven months to be burned down by a mob.
GOD’S WORD ADDRESSING THE CRISIS
The Bible Society was just starting another campaign in the newspapers at this time, focusing on Biblical values. We immediately replaced the ads with a different message: "And seek the peace of the city… and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace" (Jer. 29:7). Along with our contact information, the short message says, "Let us share together in prayer for peace and unity in Egypt."
This is the first time we have been allowed to quote a Bible verse in any of our public advertising, and many people, from all backgrounds, have called the Bible Society to thank us for the timely message and positive role. One prominent political figure, the editor of a major newspaper, called to say that he is grateful for all that we are doing to promote peace and unity in these difficult days. We have 16 front-page ads in these coming weeks, in eight major newspapers.
Amidst the intensifying suspicions, accusations, and confusing complexity of a fragmented political scene, a deteriorating economy and social unrest, the Word of God becomes so much more precious. Please pray that the Truth of God's Word would indeed penetrate the hearts and minds of many as the profile of the Bible is raised in Egypt. Please pray that people would not be swayed further into extremism and hate. Please pray for the many touching initiatives by Muslims as well, to appease and reassure Christians of their solidarity and concern.
A Muslim Arabic teacher called to say thank you for the beautiful verse that was used in the ad. His supervisor had asked him to say a word to the student body about National Unity, so he asked the Bible Society if he could use this verse, to share with all of the students.
I was flying back to Egypt while all of this was unfolding. One man abroad seemed to think that the angry Christian protestors were instigators of the violence and deserve what happened to them (unfortunately many in Egypt believe this as well). And yet when I arrived in Egypt, my Muslim taxi driver, who assumed I was a Muslim, stated how horrible he felt about the oppression and crimes committed against the Christians. "I am sure Christians would never hurt anyone," he said confidently.
Along with frightened Christians, Moderate Muslims are also feeling threatened as they will be the first to suffer if Muslim extremists take over the country. Please pray that the voice of the moderate Muslims would not be drowned-out. If the yearnings of moderate Muslims for a civil state are fulfilled, by definition, the Christians will have much more freedom in the new Egypt. But if they become an oppressed minority, then the Christians will in turn become an even more oppressed minority.
COMFORTING THE GRIEVING AND WOUNDED
As millions mourn, Bible Society staff among them, we wonder how we can minister to a people numb with shock and grief. As one staff member was praying about this, she turned on the TV and saw a lady making the sign of the cross. What caught her attention was the leaflet in the lady's hand, the Bible Society selection from I Thess. 4, "Do not grieve as those that have no hope..." 5,000 of these tracts were distributed at the Coptic Cathedral during the mass funeral. Please pray that God's Word will bring Divine Comfort and Hope to an anguished, suffering people.
Bible Society staff members have been visiting the wounded, providing Scripture resources, and looking for ways to be of assistance and encouragement. The victims, despite being broken and battered, gladly receive the large-print New Testaments into their arms and kiss them. Most have tears in their eyes, repeatedly thanking us for the visit and support of their Bible Society.
Call for Fasting and Prayer
In the wake of the attacks, leaders of the Coptic Orthodox Church called for three days of fasting and prayer for divine intervention, along with three days of mourning. Christians from all denominations have responded and the churches are full. Feeling more hurt, threatened and humiliated than ever before, there has been a general response of repentance and prayer. Just before this latest tragedy, several church conferences were held over the long weekend, one of which had 8,000 young people passionately praying for, and committed to, their beloved country. Please pray for the church in Egypt. Today a pastor called to say that they had decided to use the verse from Jeremiah as their theme in an upcoming special day of meetings for the youth.
The Bible Society editors are hard at work, with the goal of having a new Scripture publication ready for the traditional 40-day memorial service that will be held for the victims of the October 9 massacre. Please pray for them, as they decide on the message and texts, and then write, design, print, and ship it throughout Egypt in time for this event.
I have included many prayer points throughout this update; we are grateful for your concern and in need of your prayers for the peace of this country. In the midst of all the grief, we were very encouraged to learn that since the Revolution, our dramatized Arabic New Testament (done in cooperation with Faith Comes by Hearing) became the 2nd most downloaded New Testament in the world. Please pray with us, that the Bible Society of Egypt would be faithful to see and capture the opportunities that we have before us, becoming even more creative and visionary in reaching out with God's Word to this troubled region.
The Bible Society of Egypt
Please see our Rebuild Egypt website for further information and updates