Interesting article of Ramez Atallah, General Director of the
Bible Society of Egypt:
The eyes of the world have been on Egypt, wondering if a very courageous revolt demanding the resignation of the President, reforming the constitution, and ending corruption, would possibly succeed. Protected, and yet not assisted, by our armed forces, these hundreds of thousands of protesters, at great risk to themselves, persisted stubbornly in their revolt for 18 days until Friday, February 11, when President Mubarak resigned and the Army promised to fulfill the protesters’ demands. They have already dissolved both houses of parliament, suspended the constitution and are now working towards the rebuilding of both in time for presidential elections in September.
Last week, like in July 1952 when young army officers overthrew the King and declared a Republic, Egyptian history was re-written and we all believe we are in a new and exciting phase of this great nation’s destiny.
I would like to Thank You on behalf of the Bible Society and the Christians of Egypt. We were overwhelmed during this time by a flood of emails, phone calls and Facebook messages from all over the world, assuring us of your prayers and the real desire to help (I am sure you will appreciate why it has been impossible to answer each of you personally).
On the “night of rampage”, January 29th, when many businesses, shopping malls, vehicles and police stations were vandalized and destroyed, a bunch of hooligans approached the Bible House in the middle of the night. Our security guard had fled and the Muslim neighbors guarding their homes told us that they were preparing to protect our beautiful building when suddenly, for no apparent reason, the gang stopped in their tracks and returned from whence they had come! The neighbors were convinced that this was divine protection of the Bible Society and told us so! We were sleeping at the time, but undoubtedly some of you, in different time zones were praying for us!
How is the current situation in Egypt?
People feel empowered; they have broken the bonds of fear from a totalitarian system. Much goodwill and unity has been expressed. However, some costly damage has been done like the stealing of valuable archeological treasures from the Cairo Museum, the destruction of many government properties and the escape of many prisoners. There are also dozens of strikes and demonstrations by varied groups of society who believe they were unjustly treated by the previous regime and now feel free to demand their rights. All this continues to create a feeling of insecurity among many. On the positive side there is a massive, spontaneous “clean up” campaign going on in which Christians and Muslims of all classes of society are working together to clean up and rebuild Cairo and other cities across the nation.
I am sure you can imagine that with the country having come to a standstill for 18 days and with most foreigners (including businessmen and tourists) having left, it will take a lot of time and effort to restore Egypt to the economic stability we had begun to enjoy during the last year.
The present situation is extremely complex. It seems obvious to me (but not to many others) that the kind of “democracy” which could eventually be achieved by this revolution will be within the framework of a country whose main ideology is based on unwavering loyalty to a major religion. (A 2009 Gallup poll indicated that Egypt is one of the most religious countries in the world!). There will, hopefully, be much more freedom of expression and a more democratic governing system. But like all the nations in our region, there will still be restrictions for us as Christians which we will not be able to easily ignore.
Bringing the core message of the Bible to Egypt
While most Christians are encouraged by the “winds of democratic change”, many others fear that the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood could win in a free election, and that if this happens the status of Christians in Egypt might be worse than before. Many believers in Egypt are used to equating God’s blessing with physical comfort and even prosperity. Most expect a relatively peaceful life, and are not equipped to handle difficulties within a Biblical framework. Some Christians have not hesitated to flee the country, while many of those remaining wish they could leave as well.
The Christian faith was born in unstable political circumstances and has usually thrived most when threatened. Our vision at the Bible Society of Egypt is to take a deliberate role in affirming to Christians of all classes and persuasions basic Biblical truths. We are on the precipice of opportunity, and feel that there is an incredible spiritual gap that must be filled. The Bible Society is in a strategic position to address the whole church (Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant). Our urgent desire is for the Word of God to speak. We cannot fail to seize this opportunity to share the relevance of God’s Word during this momentous time in Egypt’s history.
The Bible speaks to the Revolution’s aspirations
Nearly all the dreams and aspirations of the youth who began this revolution are basic Biblical values. Unfortunately, some of the corruption and injustice against which they are revolting was perpetuated by so-called Christians as well. We know that, unless people’s hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit, all hope of a real “reformation of life-style”, to which many Egyptians now aspire, will be impossible to achieve. There has never been a time when God’s voice is more needed.
Developing new materials suitable for this crisis
As the current theme of the nation is “Let’s Build Egypt Together”, we are working on a Scripture leaflet based on Nehemiah’s rebuilding of his city and later of his people’s faith and conduct.
Pray for wisdom and creativity as to HOW to provide the appropriate message. We are planning several strategies: a nation-wide public media campaign featuring Biblical values which resonate with the revolution’s aspirations, a series of small, printed leaflets or booklets, a general newsletter aimed at all Christians in Egypt, and short audio and audio-visual clips which, like the parables of Jesus, will convey powerful messages from the Bible right to people’s hearts.
To quickly reach out in this way with God’s Word, we will be giving out all these specially-designed materials free of charge. Our dream, in these days of unprecedented freedom, is to flood Egypt with God’s Word.
Book Fair Canceled
January and February (the Bookfair Season) is our peak selling time of the year during which we receive 1/4th to 1/3rd of our total sales income. We produce and purchase large amounts of stock and pay our creditors after these 2 months. The Bookfair has been canceled, and we now face a financial dilemma.
We have, therefore, extended our Bookfair sales season until the end of March and challenged all our staff across the nation, whatever their particular job may be, to become active salespersons of the wonderful Scripture products we produced for the Bookfair season and to also fundraise from their friends, relatives and churches.
Helping Egypt Now
We unashamedly ask you to help us financially during this time of crisis and opportunity. We do not want to let our people down and will have to make a big leap of faith to begin producing and distributing all these materials before you have time to send us your donations.
Security in God’s Word
Just today, some grandparents came into one of our bookshops and bought CDs and coloring books for their grandchildren. They said, “Now is the time for our children to connect with the Word of God, to find real security. We must build their trust in the Lord, and not in a certain regime or political solution.”
Please pray for unusual creativity and effective approaches to spread God’s Word in Egypt.