Things are unraveling in Egypt. There are protests and riots across the country. 100 plus people are dead, 2,000 are injured, the Cabinet has resigned and the airport is packed with people trying to get out. The army has been restrained so far, and ultimately may be the deciding factor in the outcome.
Today, hundreds of thousands of people are in the streets demanding a change in government.
So how should we view this brewing tempest? What is our best lens for understanding what is happening in Egypt and the Middle East?
There are many perspectives you can take on world events. You can see them through humanitarian or compassionate eyes–the suffering people, the problems, the injustices. You can also look at them through political eyes–which parties are involved and who might be noteworthy of praise or blame. Or you can analyze current events through an historical lens.
I believe the most important way to look at history unfolding is through the eyes of prayer–which elevates us to a higher viewpoint. As we pray for world events, and seek his face about what is happening and what we can do, God can give us insights into what is really taking place on the ground.
Intercessors often have the best vantage point.
They’re closest to the One who knows.
One of our YWAM leaders, Mark Anderson is in the Middle East (Malta) this week leading a regional missions conference named the Call2All. Here is his call to prayer as the drama unfolded:
“Today is also the beginning of our Middle East Congress here in Malta. Many of our attendees are stranded in Egypt and can’t get out, while others are stuck here in Malta and unable to get back to their families. Thieves and looters are using these protests as an opportunity to act out in violence and to destroy businesses. Military troops are out patrolling the streets in an attempt to keep the peace.”
“We must all pray. Many of you have ministries that you can call on to intercede at this very important time. What happens in Egypt will dramatically affect the whole Middle East. Please pray for everyone involved in our congress to have God’s wisdom and for their families to be secure. Let’s ask God to supernaturally intervene in such a way that large numbers of Egyptians will put their trust in Him. May Jesus be revealed in the midst of this situation!”
Before we explore the “prayer view” of the Egyptian conflict, it might be helpful to look through the other lenses that can enlighten us. First, the political angle that has a number of key players.
As far as tyrants go, Mubarak is not the worst of the worst–but a dictator is a dictator.
Egypt has been governed for centuries by numerous strong-armed leaders. In ancient days they were called Pharoahs. Today they’re called “presidents for life”–and there really isn’t much difference except the absence of slavery.
Hosni Mubarak, dubbed ‘the Pharaoh’ for his 30-year iron rule, is said to have amassed a fortune of forty billion dollars for his family at the expense of the Egyptian people. He is eighty-two years old, and his half-Welsh wife Suzanne and sons Gamal and Alaa are seen in Egypt as symbols of nepotism and corruption with properties and business interests worldwide, including London. Mubarak is a secular Muslim who’s ruled the nation for three decades.
Critics say the closest their sons have got to ordinary Egyptians was when they were driven past them in limousines. Both sons have been linked to arms-dealing.
Mubarak has survived at least six assassination attempts and fears have also been growing that he plans to groom the more political Gamal to inherit the throne.
This is one reason why the people are rioting. They’re tired of corruption and strong-armed control. I believe there is a genuine desire for liberty and change.
The Muslim Brotherhood
While analysts ask who or what is behind the sustained protests in Egypt, one group is now seeking political legitimacy. Technically banned under Egypt’s constitution that forbids religious based parties, the Muslim Brotherhood is now throwing its support behind Mohammed el Baradei as an opposition leader.
But many fear that if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak goes, the real replacement will be either the Muslim Brotherhood itself, or an Islamic fundamentalist group. El Baradei insisted on Sunday talk shows that the fear was unwarranted.
“This is total bogus that the Muslim Brotherhood are religiously conservative,” El Baradei told ABC’s “This Week.” “They are no way extremists. They are no way using violence.”
But critics point out that the Brotherhood, which was established in Egypt in the 1920’s, is synonymous with political Islam which supports the use of Islamic law known as Sharia.
“Right now the Arab Republic of Egypt does not impose Islamic law in its fullness,” Rob Spencer, the head of Jihad Watch told FOX News. “The Muslim Brotherhood wants to change that.”
Among the brotherhood’s graduates: Al Qaeda’s number two leader, the Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri who was imprisoned for three years on weapons charges following President Anwar Sadat’s assassination in 1981, Hamas, the terror network behind suicide bombings and rocket attacks in Israel, and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, whose goal is the destruction of Israel.
Walid Phares, who is a terrorism analyst for FOX News, has studied the Muslim Brotherhood. Phares says its history shows that the group is not secular and not moderate.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is the mothership for the jihadi ideologies and thinking. And therefore one can say today’s Al Qaeda, and today many other jihadists, are off shoots of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The Muslim Brotherhood is the key religious/political entity that could exploit the crisis in Egypt.
But another political entity is also involved.
The Obama Administration
America has a major role to play in he stability of the Middle East. We are the ones who protect the survival of Israel, and much of that protection has been hinged to peace accords we brokered between Egypt and Israel.
Barack Obama and the current US administration on now on the hot seat to guard the peace. Redstate.com describes Obama’s role this way:
“Jimmy Carter will go down in American history as ‘the president who lost Iran,’ which during his term went from being a major strategic ally of the United States to being the revolutionary Islamic Republic. Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who “lost” Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and during whose tenure America’s alliances in the Middle East crumbled.”
“The superficial circumstances are similar. In both cases, a United States in financial crisis and after failed wars loses global influence under a leftist president whose good intentions are interpreted abroad as expressions of weakness. The results are reflected in the fall of regimes that were dependent on their relationship with Washington for survival, or in a change in their orientation, as with Ankara.”
“America’s general weakness clearly affects its friends. But unlike Carter, who preached human rights even when it hurt allies, Obama sat on the fence and exercised caution. He neither embraced despised leaders nor evangelized for political freedom, for fear of undermining stability.”
The Heritage also believes that current administration policies are contributing to the instability of the Middle East. Here is their perspective:
“The Obama Administration has been slow to embrace calls for liberty in Egypt is completely consistent with the Obama Doctrine as applied in the Middle East. When the Iranian people rose against the regime in Tehran in the wake of a disputed national election, Obama offered virtually no support for the cries for freedom. He was too committed to his engagement strategy with the Iranian regime, believing his “charm offensive” would be enough to deter them from pursuing nuclear weapons.”
“Those efforts have completely failed. Nevertheless, the ‘playing nice initiative’ with Tehran fell flat. Today, the regime is more aggressive than ever—backing a terrorist takeover of the government in Lebanon, snubbing Western nuclear negotiators, and promoting an Islamist agenda across the region.”
“As Elliott Abrams, who coordinated the Bush Administration’s Middle East policy at the National Security Council, wrote in The Washington Post: ‘This has been the greatest failure of policy and imagination in the administration’s approach: Looking at the world map, it sees states and their rulers, but has forgotten the millions of people suffering under and beginning to rebel against those rulers. “Engagement” has not been the problem, but rather the administration’s insistence on engaging with regimes rather than with the people trying to survive under them.’
Barack Obama, for good or for ill, may be the ultimate player in Egypt’s immediate future.
But now back to prayer–with a little historical perspective.
I have been reading through the entire Bible once each year for the past thirty-nine years. Interestingly, my daily readings this week found me in Exodus where the people of Israel were enslaved in Egypt, God raise up a reluctant Moses as a deliverer, the Egyptian gods were humiliated by the true God, and many people feared the Lord because of his loving redemption.
My reading made today’s news seem quite relevant. Egyptian strongman. People desire liberty (“Let my people Go!”) Chaos in the nation. A battle between evil forces and good. In the end, the people of God are set free.
Circumstances are very different today–but I see some parallels. The battle for the Middle East is really a titanic struggle between the forces of Satan and God’s desires for salvation. There are actually a number of possible outcomes to this political, yet spiritual battle:
- The people’s revolt produces a moderate secular democracy that leads to freedom and greater opportunities in Egypt and other Muslim nations.
- The Muslim Brotherhood and its allies use the circumstances for a radical jihadist take-over that makes Egypt more resemble Iran.
- The “consent of the governed” leads to greater freedom in Egypt and the ascendancy and leadership of the Coptic Church which makes up a sizable minority in the nation (20%). Egypt becomes a secular/Christian democracy that is a light to other Muslim societies. They too can be set free.
God is doing an amazing work in many Muslim nations today. They appear ready to cast off their religious chains and yearn for a freedom that can only be found in Christ (or Christian principles of government).
History walks a fine tightrope. Egypt could lunge into tyranny, or Egypt could rise to greatness. Will it be increasing freedom–via the Spirit of Christ–or increased tyranny through anarchy or jihadists?
Our prayers may determine history on this one.
Pray for Egypt–that God would work his wonders, destroy the false gods, and “let his people go” into the new-found freedom of faith in the Savior of the entire world.