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Egypt’s Islamist president reneges on pr...

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Egypt’s Islamist president reneges on promise of inclusive government

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Egypt

Church leaders in Egypt have criticised Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's new government, saying that is fails to fairly represent the country's sizeable Christian minority.

Mohammed Morsi was elected in June
Mohammed Morsi was elected in June
Faris knight / CC BY-SA 3.0

Following his election in June, Morsi had promised an inclusive administration, saying that his ministers would represent a cross-section of society. He pledged to include Christians in his government, even expressing his intention to appoint a Christian vice-president.

But the new cabinet he swore in last week failed to deliver on those promises: there is just one Christian (the scientific research minister from the previous government), only two women, and no representatives from other political factions or figures from the 2011 uprising.

The acting head of the largest Christian denomination in Egypt asserted that the new government was "unjust" to Christians, saying that one cabinet seat – out of 35 – was not sufficient representation for a community that accounts for a tenth of the population.

Morsi's new prime minister is Hesham Kandil, a devout Muslim, and there are five members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the cabinet. An Islamist has been appointed to the sensitive post of education minister; Christians complain of discrimination within the education system, and this appointment seems likely only to reinforce that.

Seven members of the outgoing, military-backed government have kept their positions in an indication of the power retained by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Salafists, who took around 25% of the vote in the parliamentary elections, are not represented, which may suggest that Morsi does not want to encourage a hard-line approach to the application of sharia.

But it is very difficult to identify Morsi's true intentions given the mixed messages he has sent out and his failure to deliver on his explicit promise of a representative government. On the one hand, he has pledged to protect freedoms, while on the other, he has expressed his intent to implement sharia.

Irrespective of his personal agenda, Morsi will have to balance the interests of the conservative Islamists who voted for him and those of the military, which opposes radical change.

Christians and secular-minded Egyptians fear growing Islamisation, and there are already indications of an emboldened Islam within the country.

Senior Christian leader Bishop Morcos said, "The general climate is turning against Christians. Assaults on Christians have increased."

This was confirmed by the latest United States International Religious Freedom Report, which expressed concern over "both the Egyptian government's failure to curb rising violence against Christians and its involvement in violent attacks".

Last Wednesday (1 August), a Muslim mob looted and torched homes and businesses belonging to Christians, and attacked a church, in the village of Dahshur outside Cairo; 16 people were injured. The day before, 120 Christian families had fled after threats of an attack were made. Tensions between the two communities were raised when a Christian launderer inadvertently burned a Muslim's shirt and subsequent clashes over the matter resulted in the death of a Muslim man.

As well as enduring physical attacks, Christians are increasingly being targeted over alleged "blasphemy" offences. Bishoy Kamel, a Christian teacher from Sohag in Upper Egypt, became the latest victim on 30 July; he was arrested, accused of posting cartoons on Facebook that were considered offensive to Islam and Muhammad. In April, a Christian teenager was jailed for three years for the same offence; this followed the case of another Christian, Makram Diab, who was locked up for six years, for "insulting" Muhammad following a dispute with a Muslim colleague.

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  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

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