Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Egypt and the Church

February 16, 2011

Last Sunday, Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times said that “the Obama team never found the voice to fully endorse the Tahrir Square revolution until it was over”. What I heard from the President was a consistent message that the people of Egypt should have the capacity for self-determination, and, implicitly, that American influence over events in Egypt was distinctly limited.

I have been impressed that violence has been kept to a minimum and that, thus far, the Egyptian military have acted with restraint.

It is clear that the road to a constitution and open, fair, elections will be tricky and whether that can be achieved in the military leadership’s ambitious timetable of six months remains to be seen. I wonder if that is enough time for a real opposition to emerge that can offer an alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood which seems to be the only organized group of any standing thus far. A friend and I were recalling Iran in 1979 before church on Sunday and doing so without irony.

Anglican leadership in these days has been more like Anglican followership as the Bishop of Egypt has called for calm and when Mubarak’s backers invaded the square and began to be violent, he decried the “wounds being inflicted on Egypt by her own children.” Where is the voice of the church that knows a liberating gospel? Where is a community of Christians in Egypt who aspire to shape the future? Where is there a church that has any relevance to those who led and participated n the protests? It does not appear to be among the Anglicans. The Roman Catholics and the Copts appear to have the same problem. We know what happened when religious authorities in Jesus’ day tried to ‘keep the lid on things’ so that the Romans did not get upset and become oppressive.

I pray that our brothers and sisters in Egypt will find their voice and share in the shaping of their future.

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