Langham Partnership leaders serving on the frontlines in Egypt as persecution escalates

Evangelical church in Minya, Egypt burned last week

Tensions continue to mount in Egypt following the removal of Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, Mohammed Morsi, nearly six weeks ago.

Christians, who make up only 10% of Egypt’s population, have become targets of Islamist extremists over the last week, after the nation’s interim administration shutdown two protestor camps which were contending for Morsi’s reinstatement. Since then, a pair of Coptic laymen were martyred and dozens of churches were burned, vandalized or destroyed while church leaders have been intimidated and abused, with several going missing.

One Christian in Minya, an Egyptian province located south of Cairo, where 35% of the population is Christian, told the Associated Press that local police have vanished from seven of the region’s nine districts, allowing extremists to carry out their terrorism with relative impunity.

In all, Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood has wreaked their havoc on more than 60 Coptic churches.

On the frontlines of the crisis are two Langham Scholars who are faithfully serving, standing strong in the midst of mass persecution. Their influence and leadership is an example of why we call Langham Scholars “nation-shapers.”

As we hear from them on these critical events, let us remember to pray for peace and reconciliation in Egypt, and for the safety and strength of Christians in that nation.

Atef Gendy, Langham Scholar

Atef Gendy, President of Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC)

Recently, Atef sent a note of encouragement and prayer, reminding us that God uses the fire of trials and persecution to teach us, molding us into the likeness of Christ.

“The last two and half years, since the revolution of January 2011, the Church in Egypt has grown in faith and experienced God in many new ways. In addition to the continuous experience of God’s protection…the Church has experienced her Lord as the Lord of History, Lord of creation and Lord of all nations…

We experienced literally God’s goodness as the one who ‘causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous’ (Matthew 5:45). This well-known truth became a lively experience that is challenging the Egyptian Church to go beyond her needs, fears and problems and care for her nation and society in order to be like her Lord who is in heaven. This was just one of the lessons we are learning probably the hard way. Nevertheless, we enjoy seeing God remodeling our thoughts and theology.

Please pray for our students who are doing their summer field ministry now in difficult situations that sometimes includes threats and many intimidations from Islamic groups, especially in small villages in the south. We ask for your prayers for them, not only for protection, but also for bravery, wisdom and tender hearts that are willing to reflect the love, graciousness and care of our Heavenly Father.”

Andrea and Hala StephanousRev. Andrea Zaki Stephanous, Ph.D., Langham Scholar and General Director of The Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS).

For more than 55 years, CEOSS has been dedicated to inter-cultural harmony, social justice and mutual respect while delivering a range of social support services to more than two million Egyptians in more than 100 rural and urban communities.

Andrea credits his doctoral studies in religion and politics, supported by a Langham Scholar grant, for transforming his life and equipping him with the skills necessary to take on his role as a leader, not only at CEOSS, but in the Coptic Church, the seminary where he teaches and politics as well. As a result, the impact of Andrea’s training is being multiplied across all aspects of Egyptian society.

Recently, in a statement released on behalf of CEOSS, Andrea appealed for the attention of Christians worldwide.

“With the escalation of violence and terrorism taking place in Egypt against all state facilities and houses of worship as well as private property, including important assets  of CEOSS in Minia that were totally destroyed, we have immediately communicated with all our partners and friends in the various countries of the world including members of governments, international institutions and churches, those who represent important figures of the international community, to clarify the truth of events; and called on them to convey the real picture to the media and governments in their countries.

CEOSS has also emphasized the need to stand by the people of Egypt in these circumstances that they face by the militias and armed extremist groups who roam the country destroying private and public with the aim of causing chaos, which is the first incident of its kind in the history of modern Egypt.”

In spite of Egypt’s tumult, Andrea vows to stay steadfast in his service to the church. “As we always promised, we will still be at the service of the nation through our continuous interaction with citizens, especially the most marginalized and particularly in such critical circumstances”

How to stand with Atef and Andrea