CAIRO (BP)–Hayden Hammond* has his eye on the men wielding clubs and bats in the streets of Cairo, but not for the reason you’d think.
He doesn’t watch out of fear of violence or curiosity about the government’s fate.
It’s the talk between the vigilantes that he’s interested in — the bond that comes from shared trauma.
“There’s been a divide for some time, and ever growing, between the Muslims and the Christians in Egypt. But this whole situation has created some new opportunities for dialogue,” said Hammond, a Christian worker who has spent time in Egypt and was there when the unrest escalated in late January culminating in the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11.
“For the first time, people are getting to know their neighbors, standing together to protect their streets. Now they have a deeper bond, and I think it’s going to open up a lot of opportunities for conversations about religion,” Hammond said.
“It’s like, ‘Hey, I’m not someone who’s just trying to influence your mind, I was the guy who held the stick with you and defended our neighborhood.'”
Could it start a grassroots revival? Hammond’s definitely got visions, and they aren’t all about Westerners gaining access to the region.
“What if, in God’s sovereignty, He used this as an opportunity for Egyptians to reach other Egyptians, for an indigenous uprising of the Gospel to start?” Hammond said. “[Christians] wonder how they can respond, and maybe the best response could be praying for and supporting their brothers and sisters in Cairo. They are the ones who have access, and they are the ones with the new opportunities to share.”
Lisa Langworthy*, a Christian worker who also has spent time in Egypt, agreed.
She saw the images — Christian protesters shielding Muslims from police water cannons during Friday prayers, and Christians and Muslims alike reciting the Lord’s Prayer together.
“It’s our prayer and our hope that we’re on the verge of something big,” Langworthy said. “So often it’s times in life when things are unstable that people begin to question, and that can so easily lead to spiritual change as well. So that’s our hope, our prayer.”
The window of opportunity could be small, she said. “We don’t know how long this openness will last in people’s hearts.”
Egyptians are looking for change, and right now they aren’t even picky about what kind, Langworthy said.
“I’ve asked some Egyptians what they want to happen with the government, and they say any change is good. Even if it’s risky change, they say they will just worry about that later,” she said.
She hopes the way they’re striving for change, for something different than they’ve always known, will prod them to ask spiritual questions, too.
“We have this base of people who are just waiting for a harvest,” she said.
And believers in Egypt have been waiting for a moment when they could have access to their neighbors to dialogue with them about their faith, and Langworthy said she prays “that it will happen in Tahrir (which means ‘liberation’) Square, that as they are side by side protesting and fighting for freedom, many people would have the opportunity to hear about true freedom in Christ for the first time.”
Hammond and Langworthy ask Christians to pray:
— for conversations between Egyptian Christians and their neighbors and fellow protesters that can open doors to the Gospel.
— for boldness for Egyptian Christians to share with their neighbors.
— for Christ to draw people to Himself as they seek change in their lives.
*Names changed. Ava Thomas is an International Mission Board writer/editor based in Europe.