Editorial: Beware of unintended consequences

5 July 2022

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A church in Egypt found itself under violent attack by Muslim extremists – precisely because the church had been granted a licence to worship freely.

Prior to being licensed, the Christians in al-Halla village near the city of Luxor had worshipped without any harassment for nearly 20 years.

The Christians, however, said that official recognition of the church by the Egyptian government had enraged the Muslim community.

The government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been quick to defend the rights of Christians. Authorities have granted licences to 2,401 out of the 3,730 that applied for registration after a new Law for Building and Restoring Churches removed Ottoman-era restrictions on church buildings in 2016

The incident serves as a reminder that in some countries Christians are persecuted more by the non-Christian communities around them than by the government.

Yet, more than that, it comes as a warning that the actions of Christians can have unintended consequences.

In this case, the church’s successful application for a licence did not secure peace, safety or freedom. On the contrary, it led to denunciations and violence after two decades of stability.

To be clear, the Christians in al-Halla were not wrong to apply for a licence. They were not necessarily mistaken in doing so. But their good, sensible actions had unintended consequences.

Believers in the West must bear this in mind. It is not wrong to take steps to maintain our freedom of worship, liberty to tell people about the Gospel, or right to express Biblical views. But we must also remember that doing so may inadvertently lead to more persecution.

Ultimately, our hope cannot be that we can avoid persecution through the law or through politics. Persecution in this world may well be unavoidable.

Instead, our hope must be in Christ who has overcome the world (John 16:33).  

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