John Sagherian, Regional Director for YFCI/MENA, sent an email from Beirut night before last. Attached was an earlier version of the report that follows, from his friend Nabeel Jabbour. Dr. Jabbour has just sent me an update, along with his permission to share it here on “Blues for Levantium Lost.” Regardless of the particulars (and peculiarities) of your religious confession (and even if there be none), I trust you will find his “strategic prayer requests” interesting and informative and perhaps even useful…
– Monsieur d’Nalgar
Egypt (Saturday Feb 5, 2011)
Here are some strategic prayer requests that hopefully will continue to be relevant in spite of the rapid changes that are taking place on daily basis. I went back and read chapters from my book The Rumbling Volcano which I wrote twenty years ago. Chapter 13 addressed my predictions regarding the future under the title: “Prospects.” The other chapters that I read are chapters 5 and 6 that deal with the Muslim Brotherhood. In this message I have extensive endnotes explaining historical background and relevant information to those who are interested. Please ignore what I sent you earlier and look at this updated list of prayer requests.
1. Please pray that the Christian community in Egypt will demonstrate solidarity with the rest of the Egyptians, as they did in 1919. In that year, Muslims and Christians marched side by side in opposition to Colonialism, and it served the Christian community well for many years.i Related to this, please pray that Christians will be perceived by the Egyptian Muslims as authentic Egyptians whose allegiance lies with Egypt rather than any other foreign country. In Exodus 1: 8-10 “Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. ‘Look,’ he said to his people, ‘the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.’” Please pray that the people of God in Egypt today will not make the same mistake made by the Israelites prior to their captivity in Egypt. Pray that they will not be perceived by the Muslims as “foreigners at heart” whose allegiance lies with the West rather than with Egypt.
2. As a result of fanaticism, a great deal of polarization has taken place between Egyptian Muslims and Christians. A pastor in Egypt described the situation as two trains coming with full speed toward one another on the same tracks. The question is not “if” but “when” the collision will take place.ii Please pray that God will use this situation in Egypt to calm down this fanaticism on both sides and to bring the Egyptians together. In my book The Rumbling Volcano, which was written in 1990, I addressed some important background information.iii
3. Christian leaders such at the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Protestant leaders, need to know where to stand and how to do it. The options available to them are to side with President Mubarak or with the opposition which is diverse and includes the Muslim Brotherhood, or to opt for sitting on the sidelines and wait.iv Please pray for wisdom to know where to stand and how to do it. It is a significant moment in the history of Egypt. What the leadership of the churches do or not do will determine the Christian presence in Egypt for years to come. This in turn will influence all of Christianity in the rest of the Arab world. Egypt has the largest and the strongest Christian presence in the Middle East.
4. So far the leadership of the military have had a neutral position and have been highly respected by the Egyptians. There are very respected Egyptians such as judges, professors, doctors and others who can play a respected and a neutral role that could promote a real transition into real democracy.v Please pray that President Mubarak will have wisdom in this critical time in the history of his country. Please pray that he will give dignity to his office and that he will be given a dignified retirement or exit.
5. The Muslim Brotherhood organization has not been recognized as a political party , so its members could not run for elections in the past under the banner of the Muslim Brotherhood. With the change in the constitution that will take place, the door might be opened for the Muslim Brotherhood to run for elections. Will they hijack the situation to their advantage? Will they win the elections in September?vi If that happens, will God panic? If that happens, will it complicate the peace treaty with Israel? Would it become harder for the Christians in Egypt to exist with relative freedom as a minority? If the Muslim Brotherhood take over the government, could that purify the church as it goes underground? All these are important questions. The Muslim Brotherhood are the most organized group in the opposition and some people think that it is not likely at all that they will win the election but for sure they will have a greater role to play.
6. Please pray for the Christians in Egypt, as individuals and as a community, that they will have courage and wisdom on how they relate to their neighbors and to their Muslim contacts. Please pray that they will be intentional in being peace makers and that they will use this difficult time to build strong bridges of relationship with Muslims that can carry the heavy truth of the Gospel. The stronger the bridge of relationship, the heavier the truth that it can carry.vii
7. Please pray for safety and protection from evil in all its forms. Looting and breaking into homes is happening and is likely to continue. Neighborhood cooperation on the streets became a wide spread phenomenon.viii
8. Please pray that believers in Christ in Egypt and the rest of Middle East will resist the temptation to leave Egypt and immigrate.
9. Perhaps in very limited way some armed groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, are providing protection from crime and looting. This could pave the way for legitimizing militias if the government does not provide real protection and security very quickly. Please pray for the government and the leadership in Egypt.
10. Please pray for continued wisdom for the U.S. administration in knowing how to navigate this very difficult and rapidly changing situation in Egypt. How the US administration deals with President Mubarak will communicate a message to the other kings and presidents of the Arab world. Please pray that President Obama, Secretary Clinton and their teams will have an attitude of kneeling down in dependence before the Lord. May God give them wisdom from above in this very difficult situation.
11. Finally and above all please pray for the Christians in Egypt and for those around the world who are praying for them that they will be continually reminded that God is the Sovereign Lord of the universe. The Presidents and Kings of the earth think that they are in control. God in heaven laughs. Ps 2 is a good description of what is happening on earth and in heaven.
Here is an interview which is worth watching.
Nabeel T. Jabbour Th. D
H & Off. (719) 578-8973
Fax (719) 635-3728
545 Mesa Vista Ct.
CO 80904 U.S.A.
Adjunct Professor at:
i “In 1919, the Egyptians united together in a new way against the British. This took place when an Egyptian delegation wanted to go to England to speak for the rights and demands of the Egyptian people to the British government. The British did not give any recognition or weight to this nationalistic Egyptian spirit, and they prevented the delegation from going to England. Furthermore, they banished three al-Wafd (delegation leaders). As a result, the “whole” of Egypt, as it were, stood up against the British. There were the students, the workers, the peasants, but most important, the Christians stood side by side with the Muslims. Somehow, the Christians sensed that their place of belonging was with Muslim Egypt rather than with the “Christian” colonialists.The demonstrations were led by Muslim and Christian religious leaders as they marched arm in arm in the streets of Cairo. It was a clear message to the British, that Christians did not need their protection, and to the Muslims that Copts are authentic Egyptians.” Jabbour, The Rumbling Volcano page 72.
ii There are now many Arab Christian TV channels in America targeting the Muslim world and some of them have been vehemently attacking Islam, Muhammad, the Qur’an and Hadith. On the other hand there has been a marked increased expression of fanaticism among some Muslims that culminated in the attack on a church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve at the end of 2010.
iii “It did so happen, as Hasan al-Banna says, that in many places where there were Muslim Brotherhood branches, there were in these same places Protestant missionaries and Protestant schools. This put al-Banna right in the climate of a confrontation with the missions.
All the books written by Muslim authors, at my disposal, are in general agreement about the negative effects of missionaries during the first half of this century. Sa’îd claimed that the main goal of Protestant missionary work was to sidetrack the Egyptians from fighting the colonialists and become involved in side issues, such as sectarianism, which would exhaust the time and the energy of the Egyptians. He seemed to imply that the missionaries were the agents of the British colonialists, or perhaps were unconsciously used by the British as a “lightning rod” to absorb the Egyptian resistance.
He then goes on to say that the strategy of the West was to create beachheads among the Christian minority from which to raid the Muslim population and proselytize.
Then he pointed out that the Protestants had questionable relationships with the foreign powers and embassies. They seemed to work under the umbrellas of these foreign powers. Bayûmi pointed out that these foreign Protestants were not even accepted by their fellow Christians – the Copts. The Copts were authentic Egyptians (as was seen in the Revolt of 1919), but these Protestants and even their converts were “foreign” to the culture (Bayûmi 1978: 303).
Sa’îd then says that this missionary work aggravated the Muslims and helped produce a strong reaction of reverse proselytizing. This incubated germs of prejudice and hatred between Christians and Muslims (Sa’îd 1977: 28-30, 60). Bayûmi went on to say that the Muslim Egyptians’ desire for a return to the Ottoman caliphate grew stronger. Since the occupants were European Christians and the missionaries were also European Christians, it was understandable why the Muslims yearned for the Ottoman days.
Another factor that added to the frustration of the Muslims was the attitude and the strategy of these missionaries. Their aim was to proselytize the Muslims. Their attitude was that Christianity was superior and Islam inferior. Their strategy was to build schools and attract girls and families that were vulnerable, either because of poverty or because of lack of exposure and lack of self-confidence (Wakîl 1986: 71). Jabbour, The Rumbling Volcano pages 76-79. In today’s geopolitical context it will not be the British Colonialists but Israel and its primary ally, the United States especially the Bush administration.
iv Some protestant leaders in Egypt have called for a day of fasting and prayer on Friday Feb 4. There is fear in Egypt that a big clash will take place on Friday as demonstrators might march to the President’s palace.
v On Feb 2, a “Committee of the Wise” sent to president Mubarak a plea with five suggestions including transfer of power to the Vice President immediately. Mubarak was quoted to have said that he has a PhD in stubbornness.
vi Hasan al Banna was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. I have two chapters in my book The Rumbling Volcano on the Muslim Brotherhood. Here are a couple of paragraphs from chapter 5 that give some insights about Hasan al Banna the founder.
“In 1923 he joined Dâr al-’Ulûm (College of Science) in Cairo. As he watched Cairo with the religious eyes of a villager, he was both shocked and moved. Sleepless nights of pondering over the problems of the nation brought down tears of shame and sorrow. The 1920s were years of intense political and intellectual ferment. Political parties were in strife, bringing about disunity. Ataturk’s revolt in Turkey encouraged the trend of secularism which attacked the tradition of Orthodoxy and the fundamentals of Islam. All of this, with many other factors, was the climate that al-Banna faced and was like a culture shock to him as he lived in Cairo.
During this period he arrived at a deep conviction that the mosques alone cannot make an impact on the society. Therefore he organized a group of students from Al-Azhar and Dâr al-’Ulûm and started training them in teaching, preaching and guidance. They were available to speak at mosques, but more importantly at coffee-houses and other popular meeting places.
Some of these students were sent out to villages and towns as resident lay preachers and teachers. So the “para-mosque” idea came into existence in Egypt among the Muslims as he purposed to bridge the gap between the day-to-day practical living and the teaching and preaching of Islam (Sa’îd 1977: 56).
In his final year at Dâr al-’Ulûm, his class was asked to write an essay on the subject, “Explain your great hopes after the completion of your studies, and show how you will prepare yourselves for their realization.” In this essay, al-Banna put down on paper his dreams, ambitions, analysis of the situation and his solemn promise that he would be completely dedicated to God and to this cause. God and his teacher were witnesses to that promise (Mitchell 1977: 22-23).
In 1927 he moved into Ismâ’îliyya to start his work as a teacher of the Arabic language in the government primary school. There, he began his call and vocation and the Muslim Brotherhood was born.”
Islam, for him, was a state, a place of belongingness, a nation and a government. Islam was the record of creation, of God’s power, His mercy and justice. It was a culture and a code of justice. It included guidance on how to deal with money, how to make it and how to dispose of it, how to possess it, but not get possessed by it. Islam was not only a holy war (jihâd), a call and an army, but was also a pure doctrine and a system of worship (in Bayûmi 1979: 141).
In his view, the Muslim should be like a “monk” at night, praying and worshipping, but during the day like a “knight,” courageous, strong and involved. If Muslims got satisfied with a life of prayer and worship, and left the matters of politics, administration and government to people who were corrupt, that would be escapism and not Islam. Islam is dîn wa dunya (religion and life). Politics, holy war and social involvement are in the heart of Islam, and the Muslim who does not believe in that is shortsighted.
His vision was clear, he aimed for the individual. His aim was to help him become a real Muslim, in his relationship with God and in his relationship with those around him. The next circle was the family, then the following circle was the society. And once you had a truly Muslim society, sooner or later the government would follow the Sharî’a and the whole country would live under Islamic rule. Al-Banna then looked further, not only to Egypt and the Arab world, but to the whole Muslim world, the Islamic nation. The next circle in his vision included countries that used to be Muslim but had turned away from Islam, such as Andalos in Spain. Finally, the whole world needed to know about Islam, for in it was the hope for humanity (Al-Banna sa: 85-86). Jabbour, The Rumbling Volcano, pages 86-91.
vii Ramez Atallah, the director of the Bible Society in Egypt wrote: “Christians and Muslims have been united as never before defending their homes on overnight shifts (due to the lack of police security) this is resulting for many to make friends with neighbors they never knew and there is a real sense of camaraderie which we never had before.”
viii On Tuesday Feb 1, I was able to call one of my best friends in Egypt and he assured me that they are fine and he was very encouraged with the unity between Christians and Muslims these days. He told me: “When the police were in control the churches were being attacked, now that there is no police and people are guarding their neighborhoods, Christians are feeling safe. I have been down in the street guarding our neighborhood with fellow neighbors, Muslims and Christians.” Now on Wednesday Feb 2, it is a very different story.