First Hand Report from Egypt

One of my longtime friends is president of the Bible Society of Egypt.  Ramez Atallah sent this email today, and it will give you an inside look into the turmoil in Egypt.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dear friends,

Thank you so much for the quick responses and promises of prayers which you sent in response to my request for prayer yesterday.

I do believe that many of your prayers were answered.

Having never participated in a demonstration before and knowing that previous ones had been violent I was a bit apprehensive. I had seen on television that there were barricades around the Presidential Palace and that people were not allowed to get close.  But as I walked towards the Palace I suddenly found hundreds of people running towards me exclaiming that the Police was using tear gas from which they were escaping.  Shortly after that the crowds were able to penetrate the barriers and the Police mysteriously disappeared.  We were all grateful that there was no violence which was remarkable when so many angry people congregate in such a small place.

The crowds around me were friendly and though they may have been angry, they were certainly not hateful.  This was a peaceful demonstration and everyone was being courteous to their neighbors. It felt like a big party, people were excited, chatting with each other, getting to know others, commenting freely about what they believed and enjoying being able to walk on the streets which were usually jam-packed with cars!

Two veiled woman and a man standing beside me said to me, “this is Egypt, veiled and unveiled women, Christians and Muslims, we are all Egyptians and that is the way we want to be!”  I had tears in my eyes as I heard these words and as I saw the reality of their statements reflected in the camaraderie and closeness of people who obviously did not know each other but enjoyed being together and enjoyed being fellow Egyptians.  While I noticed a large number of unveiled women whom I presumed to be Christians, there were still a significant number of partially and completely veiled Muslim women indicating that the majority of people around me were Muslims and that they were certainly not happy with what their Islamist President and his party were doing.

Right in front of the Presidential Palace the crowds were so thick that I had to push my way through to move along. I wanted to see how far the crowds went and was able to find the perimeters of the crowds on both sides of the Presidential Palace.  There were definitely an incredibly large number of people certainly in the hundreds of thousands and maybe more.

These people represent the best of Egyptian Society.  Many of them courageously protested against the Mubarak regime during the January 25th, 2011 Revolution at great risk to themselves at that time.

Now again they came out in large numbers to make sure that the price they paid to gain democracy would not have been in vain.

Will the Government respond? Will the President make any concessions?  I doubt it.  The present rulers of Egypt are extremely stubborn and do not value a pluralistic society.  Some of the Government controlled Media indicated that the crowds around the Palace were only a few thousand and insignificant in terms of Egypt’s many millions.  We have just heard that the Muslim Brotherhood have said that they will demonstrate in the same place tonight and there is real fear of clashes between them and the opposition.

What the President cannot understand is that his claim to be the President of all Egyptians means that he needs to listen to all sides and cannot simply impose a particular view on people who reject it.  I believe we are in for a long period of struggle in Egypt, but last night I had a sense of hope, believing that these wonderful people who came out and demonstrated would not allow any Government to take away from them the new found freedom they had recently achieved.

The immediate future for Egypt is bleak.  On December 15th there will be a referendum on the new constitution.  If the constitution is passed it will give the President unprecedented and uncontested powers without Judiciary oversight.  If the referendum is not passed the President will continue using the unprecedented powers he has taken onto himself which precipitated the present protests.  So for many moderate Muslims and Christians we seemed to be faced with a lose lose situation.  Because of this some have called for the boycott of the referendum but this will certainly mean that it will pass.  There is a very slight chance that if the referendum is not rigged a majority may vote against the new constitution. But as I said if this happens we will still be left with a President who has taken unto himself unprecedented powers.  Please pray for God’s overruling in this politically complex situation.

Thanks for your prayers and support for us during this time. Please pray that as a Bible Society we may know how to help Christians with messages from the Scriptures which will encourage and challenge them during these turbulent days.

Sincerely,

Ramez Atallah
General Director
The Bible Society of Egypt

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