CAIRO (BP)–Two weeks ago, Mina Peter* didn’t know a soul in his Cairo apartment building. Like many young Egyptians, the 22-year-old computer science major was simply too busy to make the effort. And as the only Christian in the building, Peter wasn’t sure his Muslim neighbors cared to know him.
But that was before a massive revolt calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak plunged the city into chaos. Demonstrations turned violent; police threw tear gas while protestors traded rocks and Molotov cocktails. Businesses were looted and vandalized. Tanks rolled down Cairo’s streets.
Instead of turning on each other, the violence brought many Egyptian communities together. Neighbors improvised checkpoints at their apartment buildings to ensure safety. And in the process, Peter says, they inadvertently began to get to know one another.
“[I] have been building relationships with people who have been living in the same building with me for years and I haven’t known them,” he says. “Now I get to know them all, I get to speak to them, we drink tea with each other … [and discuss] what’s happening in the country.
“I believe that God has been opening doors for us in this time of trouble that we can have bridges with people — that we can build more relationships that can open doors and we can deliver the message of Jesus.”
Peter adds that the crisis also is creating opportunities for sowing the Gospel. On Sunday, Feb. 6, a large evangelical church near Cairo’s Tahrir Square — the epicenter of the protests — held an open-air worship service before thousands of protestors, many of them Muslim.
“[The church] had a lot of demonstrators in Tahrir Square supporting them. [There were] a lot of people shouting, even if they didn’t know the words for the songs … but they were joining them,” Peter says. “All the Muslims around them were listening … they’re seeing that Christians are loving the country, that they don’t have any [intentions] except love and mercy for the Egyptian people.”
Samir Abdou* is the pastor of the evangelical church in Cairo that Peter attends. Abdou is working to help his congregation navigate the crisis in light of their faith. Though no one in the church was physically harmed during the violence, a shop owned by two church members was looted and burned. Abdou doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the theme he chose for the church in 2011 is “affliction and growth.”
“Maybe this is what the church needed … to regain our vision and stop being silent,” he says. “If we want [Egyptians] to know the Lord we need to be close to them…. We are happy with the closeness [the crisis has brought] and we are seeking that the Lord might use it to serve and help our Muslim brothers.”
Abdou believes prayer is critically important during this potential period of transition in Egypt’s history. His church is holding daily prayer meetings, and he covets the prayers of Christians around the world — but not only on behalf of Egyptian believers.
“Pray for all Egyptians because at the moment we are all in the same boat and that’s a positive thing,” he says. “Pray that the change will bring more freedom for [Christians] to share our faith and to be able to build churches, and for those who come from other backgrounds to be able to become Christians and to declare their faith without fear.”
But freedom isn’t the only thing Egypt’s Christians are yearning for. Peter wants something bigger.
“We have been praying for years for revival in Egypt,” he says. “We have been praying for the church, especially for the young people to have a real revival…. I believe that God is using [the crisis] for everybody to speak and maybe, weeks later or months later, these relationships will be used for them to see how Christians live and how they love God and how they love nonbelievers…. That’s what I hope I see God doing.”
— Pray that the Gospel spreads to millions of Egyptian families during this crisis.
— Ask God to inspire Egyptian believers with creative and appropriate ways to share God’s Word. Pray they seize every opportunity, with wisdom, to tangibly love their neighbors and to share the hope that is within them.
— Pray that Egyptian believers will be filled with God’s strength and be encouraged.
Don Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board, online at IMB.org.