Date: February 26, 2015
Egypt (MNN) — It’s no surprise, really. ISIS’ slaughter of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya, as a declaration of war, has prompted an exodus of believers from Libya.
The Associated Press reports an average of 2,000-3,000 Egyptians have crossed the border every day since the video was released 10 days ago.
At the same time, a top cleric in Egypt is calling for religious teaching reforms. Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb of Cairo’s al-Azhar University called for unity among Muslims at an anti-terror conference recently. He also suggested a different approach was needed in Quran interpretation to tackle the spread of Islamic extremism.
Greg Musselman, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs Canada, says, “This actually may even fire up ISIS and al-Qaeda and some of these other groups because they’re trying to tone Islam down. I think there’s going to be a reaction to that, as well.”
Musselman says this direction was something partners on the ground were concerned about at the time of the Arab Spring uprising. At that time, they said, “There’s something that’s happening within the Muslim religion that we’re going to see things become more radicalized, or become more extreme. That’s playing itself out.”
Egypt launched its response, and Musselman says, “Before that, they said there was no way they were going to get involved in going after ISIS. Now, they’re changing their story. They’re saying that if it involves their citizens, they’re going to be involved militarily.” The question now is whether or not Egypt will stand alone. Apparently not. Several countries, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, have also offered military assistance against Islamic State (IS).
However, recent history in Egypt calls to memory heavy persecution of Christians at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. “What about the hundreds of Christian girls–Coptic girls that have been kidnapped and forced into Islam–forced to marry Muslim men? Where is the teaching from that? Is that acceptable in the Quran?”
Why avenge the murders of the 21? Musselman says ISIS crossed a line. “They seemed to be okay if churches were burned down, or Christians kidnapped or killed quietly, behind the scenes in a sense. But something so blatant and so vulgar [as] the beheading of some of their citizens, that has caused a very strong reaction from Egypt.”
What does Egypt’s defense mean for Christians now? It doesn’t mean safety. Things haven’t really changed much internally. “We need to be praying for our brothers and sisters, that they will remain strong and courageous in persecution, but also that they’d have wisdom. What do they say? What don’t they say? They need a lot of wisdom.”
People of the Cross face economic and social challenges because of their Christian faith throughout the Middle East. Christians still face hostility in this time of uncertainty. “We really need to be praying for them that they’ll be strong and that God will help them and guide them through a lot of the landmines that are currently in front of them.”