What will happen to Christians in the “New Egypt”? Will they enjoy unprecedented freedom? Or, as a recent wave of violence suggests, will they be oppressed more than ever?
Christians comprise about 10-percent of Egypt’s 84-million citizens. And, many of these Christians actively participated in the democratic uprisings that led to the ouster of the repressive Hosni Mubarak regime. These Christians hoped a change in government would bring more freedom. But, democracy doesn’t always bring freedom from tyranny. As British Historian Lord John Acton observed more than 100 years ago, “The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority.”
Unfortunately, a tyrannical and intolerant Muslim majority appears to be prevailing in certain parts of Egypt. In Soul, a suburb of Cairo, a mob of about four-thousand Muslims burned a church on March 5th. The rampaging mob also attacked the homes of Christians, killing two people and prompting many to flee to nearby villages. This led to further outbreaks of violence in Cairo, eventually killing 13 and wounding 140.
So far, democracy in the Arab World has spelled persecution for most Christians. Iraq’s Christian population has dwindled to nearly half of what it was when the U.S. invaded in 2003. Iraqi churches have been bombed; congregations gunned down; priests beheaded; and believers raped and even crucified. Christian leaders Bahrain, Yemen, and Tunisia say the turmoil there has not yet specifically targeted Christians, but many are holding their breath. Certainly, the Arab countries that have recently acquired political freedoms have an abysmal track record of mistreating Christians.
As radio host Jerry Bowyer recently noted, “(R)evolutions . . . seldom make things any better; they change governments, but don’t change people.” Democracy worked in America because our founders embraced Judeo-Christian values, which affirm the worth of every individual and his right to follow his conscience. Unfortunately, much of the Arab World doesn’t embrace these same values. In fact, the Egyptian constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and affirms the principles of Islamic – or Shariah – law. According to Shariah, conversion to another faith is apostasy – a crime equated with treason and punishable by death!
Certainly, we need to be praying for our Christian brothers and sisters in these newly-democratic Arab states. And, hopefully, the U.S. will exert its influence on these countries – encouraging them to honor religious freedom. Otherwise, it’s quite likely that Christians in Egypt and other Arab countries may experience democracy in the coming months – but not freedom.