‘God saved our country’

Leaders say prayer movement protected Egypt’s revolution

Cairo – Hidden from view behind a hulking government building, Kasr El Dobara Evangelical Church still looms large over Tahrir Square.

The largest evangelical church in the Middle East figures prominently in a nationwide movement of unity and prayer that Egyptian Christians believe quietly protected the revolution – and soon will shake the world.

Kasr El Dobara’s regular Monday-night prayer service opens with 45 minutes of worship choruses. Several generations of adults filter in late – the norm in Egypt – eventually filling most of the 1,200 seats.

The room is a mix of old and new: stained-glass windows and wooden pews, along with TV lights and big-screen video monitors. KDEC’s services go out live on several satellite channels including Sat-7, the Christian channel that reaches millions of homes across the Arab world.

Pastor Sameh Maurice leads the Monday evening prayer meeting at Kasr El Dobara Church.

Pastor Sameh Maurice leads the Monday evening prayer meeting at Kasr El Dobara Church.

Senior Pastor Sameh Maurice leads. Amid the worship choruses, he asks the congregation to pray in groups of two, then four, then two again. They pray for Egypt. They pray against division in the church.

“We pray for the nations, politically and financially,” says Dr. Essam Milad, a Cairo urologist who often leads prayer at KDEC. “For jobs. For the government, for the president, for safety, for the governors. We have to support this nation. Otherwise the devil will swallow it.”

Attendance at these meetings isn’t quite what it was a year ago, when the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood seemed like it really could swallow the church. The Brotherhood, an Islamic political movement founded in Egypt, had been waiting more than 80 years for an opportunity like the revolution. But Egypt’s year under President Mohammed Morsi proved an unequivocal disaster as he claimed unchecked powers and moved to impose Sharia (Islamic law) – ending with another revolution against the Brotherhood group and removing Morsi from power.

During that 2013 transition, a military and government crackdown left hundreds dead and officially classified the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. In an attempt to blame Christians for the turn, MB sympathizers burned more than 80 churches, plus orphanages, hospitals, other Christian institutions and homes of Christian families.

A new presidential election is set for May 26-27. Many in Egypt believe that will help the country stabilize. That’s one prayer at tonight’s meeting, but it’s secondary to the prayer that, in a country of 88 million people that’s only 10 to 15 percent Christian, unprecedented numbers will come to Christ.

“Please! We are not yet there!” Pastor Maurice implores the congregation. They pray for the three-day, national prayer conference to be held later that week at Beit El Wadi, the KDEC-owned conference center between Cairo and Alexandria.

“God says I will only listen to a united church,” he continues. “Outside there is darkness, terrorism, blood and hatred. But God’s hope lies in the church.”

As the meeting nears its end, he grasps a corner of the Egyptian flag next to the podium and prays emotionally for the country and for more to find Christ.

“We have seen our prayers answered,” he says. “But the story has not ended yet. And God decided not to work without the church. We have to increase the number of people praying.”

 

‘Blessed be Egypt’

The prayer movement here, less than a block from the revolution’s Ground Zero, also has been happening across the nation. It started around 2000, exploded with the 2011 revolution and reached its zenith during Morsi’s rule.

“We started to take Isaiah 19 – ‘Blessed be Egypt, my people’ – we started to believe that we are his people,” Dr. Milad says. “Gradually we felt God’s heart over this nation – that it has a special call at this time in the Middle East and in the middle of this Islamic people.”

“God told us, ‘If anything positive will happen in the Middle East, it has to be through you.’”

Dr. Maher Samuel, in his Alexandria office, talks about the impact of prayer on Egypt's revolution and aftermath.

Dr. Maher Samuel, in his Alexandria office, talks about the impact of prayer on Egypt’s revolution and aftermath.

Dr. Maher Samuel, an Alexandria-based psychiatrist who heads the Egypt office of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, attributes part of Christians’ newfound boldness to the spirit of the revolution, though he’s hesitant to conclude that prayer alone caused it.

“I can’t say that,” he says. “But the course of events after the revolution, I believe, was directed by prayers.”

He will say that unprecedented prayer and unity protected the revolution and kept Egypt from descending into chaos as in Libya, Syria and Iraq. That included prayer that God would confuse Morsi and his government, who were intent on imposing political Islam.

“In our prayer meetings … we got marvelous answers,” Pastor Maurice says. “One of them was, we used the prayer of David, when his son (Absalom) rebelled against him. … David prayed to God that God would give him foolish advice.

“We used this prayer, over and over again. It worked. In one year, Morsi and his group made all the mistakes, all the wrong decisions. And they didn’t do one single thing right.”

Dr. Samuel calls what happened “judicial stupidity.”

“It was judgment from God, not by diseases or hunger, but stupidity. It was very clear what was the right decision to make in this situation, and always they did the opposite. So it certainly wasn’t normal.

“God was really, really supervising everything,” he adds. “God saved our country.”

Political Islam that took Libya, Sudan, Iraq and Syria stopped at the borders of Egypt, Islam’s intellectual seat. Christian leaders believe that’s because the church prayed, and continues to pray.

In Part 2: A vision takes shape; unity out of tragedy

2 Comments

  1. Andrew,

    While there were no overt, official efforts on behalf of Morsi to enforce Sharia, Article 219 of the constitution issued in 2012 while the Muslim Brotherhood was in power stated, “Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic its official language. Principles of Islamic Sharia are the principal source of legislation.” This was a reiteration of the 1980 amendment to the constitution that affirmed the same. In keeping with this, in various speeches that Muslim Brotherhood representatives made during their time in power in Egypt, they made sure to declare their unequivocal goal of enforcing Sharia across Egypt. This, of course, has been their intention since the creation of the organization in 1928. This in turn is in line with two core principles in the Muslim Brotherhood doctrine — Tamkeen (takeover) and Hakimyya (Allah’s full sovereignty through the Caliphate and the enforcement of Sharia.

  2. Pingback: Egypt's Christians unite - Crossfield News

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