Reflections on the Egyptian Revolution

by Rick Love

I was at a Muslim-Christian Dialogue at Eastern Mennonite University when the announcement was made: Egypt has toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Wow! The non-violent revolution was successful. We sat in stunned silence and then rejoiced. After that we went to the mosque together. The Imam who preached in the mosque that day was exuberant about this mind-blowing turn of events. What a joy and privilege to be with my Muslim friends during the momentous change.  

What can we learn? What can I say?

First, the Internet fueled and empowered this revolution. Social media helped curb violence -- because the world was watching in real-time everything that President Mubarak and his supporters were doing. Social media was one of the main forces that ultimately led to the overthrow of a dictator. 

People communicated and coordinated their efforts through social media (Twitter, Facebook, Blackberries, and iPhones). Young people who had never protested before went on the Internet to learn the necessary clothes to wear and tools to bring (some of this they learned from the previous regime turnover in Tunisia).  One cartoon I saw recently showed guns as the weapons of past revolutions, and Twitter and Facebook as the weapons of present revolutions. 

Many Americans dislike Al-Jazeera. They wrongly view this news channel as a voice for anti-Americanism and for terrorism. But Al-Jazeera's good reporting played an important role in the revolution. Their Egyptian headquarters were closed down during the uprising but they kept broadcasting to let the Arab world (and the whole world) know what was happening on the streets. 

I am challenged afresh by power of social media. How can we be more effective at using this tool for the sake of Christ and the cause of peace?

The Egyptian people have been courageous, and the Egyptian military showed great restraint. I don't want to speak prematurely, but certainly there are not many non-violent regime changes in history like this. I am not naive. Things could turn violent quickly. As President Obama said, this is only the beginning of the revolution. But we need to savor the moment. 

Secondly, Egyptian religious leaders are also impressive. I have had the privilege of meeting a number of high-level Egyptian imams and professors, including the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Prof. Dr. Ahmed Tayyeb. I have found him and others to be devout, reasonable and forward-thinking men. The Grand Imam even has a good sense of humor! I am positive about Egypt's future. 

Third, we need to pray that the transition does not get violent. Egypt is the intellectual and religious heart of the Sunni Muslim world. If this transition goes well, it could have massive positive impact throughout the Muslim world. Not only would it enhance the lives of 83 million Egyptians, but it could also be a force for peace and a strong deterrent against terrorism. 

Having said that, I think that the future government of Egypt will be more democratic than it has been in the past, but in a distinctly Arab and Islamic way. It will probably not be pro-American at least for awhile (especially since Mubarak was!). But this should not surprise us. As Fareed Zakaria says in his recent article in Time Magazine, "Asking women to wear veils is different than making men wear suicide belts. If the U.S. is opposed to every expression of religiosity, it will find itself unable to understand or work with a new, more democratic Middle East" (Feb 14, 2011, p. 34). 

Fourth, we need to pray that the new form of government will result in freedom of religion. During the last few months, Muslims protected Christians during a Christmas church service and Christians protected Muslims as they prayed during the demonstrations. They also worked together to protect their homes and to clean their streets.

So let's pray for peace in the transition, and for some type of democratic reform to be implemented, with the result that freedom of religion will be insured.  This would please God and would bless our Christian sisters and brothers in Egypt.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4). 

Finally,  beware of conspiracy theories or walking in fear! I have heard some who say this revolution was fueled by Islamic fundamentalists whose eventual goal is to destroy Israel. Others say the protests in Egypt are being orchestrated by an alliance of Communists and Islamic fundamentalists who seek to overthrow capitalism and make a "new world order." Here's what I believe the Lord would like to say to us:

"You are not to say, 'It is a conspiracy!' In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread" (Isaiah 8:12-13).