Egypt (ODM/MNN) ― Suspected Islamic militants are chasing Coptic Christian families from their homes in parts of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Death threats and harassing attacks have been on the rise, especially in the days since President Mohamed Morsi of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood took office.
The post-uprising Egypt for Coptic Christians has not been a kind one. Jerry Dykstra, a spokesman with Open Doors USA, says Morsi was addressing the United Nations General Assembly this week. A charismatic speaker, he has gained a lot of favorable publicity, according to the news reports.
This has caused some worry for Christians, says Dykstra. "Morsi is taking center stage, saying, ‘We have tremendous religious equality in Egypt.' At the same time, he's saying, ‘There are limits on freedom of expression.' So what is the truth?"
There have been increasing reports from watchdog groups indicating that Christians are being increasingly marginalized in Egypt. Ordinarily, it would be someone like the Coptic Church Pope who would speak up on their behalf. "They look up to their Pope as a spiritual leader but also as one who has a voice for the voiceless."
However, Pope Shenouda III died in March and hasn't yet been replaced. Dykstra explains, "The process is in place, and according to what I read, it's December 2 that the new Pope will be chosen." That's a long time to go without an advocate at a time when things are starting to heat up in Egypt.
Dykstra notes that the feeling of vulnerability has only been increasing. "Only six months ago, Morsi said that the Christian Coptic population should convert, pay tribute, or leave the country." Yet a mass exodus isn't practical. Coptic Christians make up roughly 10% of the population.
Conservative Islamic parties took a lion's share of votes in the parliamentary elections late last year, so they are tasked with writing a new constitution for the country's long-term future...which means the oppression isn't likely to let up any time soon.
Dykstra says, "It was tough, and they expect to see more persecution. And, unfortunately, that has taken place. They're uncertain about the future; they're uncertain about whether Sharia law may be imposed."
The uncertainty has left Christians asking themselves, "Where is Egypt going?" Pressed between the proverbial "rock and a hard place," Christian leaders have issued a call for urgent, united prayer for Egypt, starting today. "They're praying for an orderly selection for the right person for the new Orthodox Church Pope, and that this new Pope will have a vision for the millions of Coptic Christians there."
Just like they did prior to elections, there's a nationwide call for the Egyptian church to unite, says Dykstra. "This is why they called for a time of prayer and fasting. They've asked us in the West to pray for them also from October 1-3."
"The significance of the call to prayer comes from the desperate urgency we Egyptian Christians feel as we see the developments that are taking place in our country and the many concerns we have about the future," says a Christian leader who has been blogging from Egypt.
Egypt is ranked No. 15 on the Open Doors 2012 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
Open Doors comes alongside believers through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry, and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers.
On Wednesday, Christians are urged to gather in churches across the country to ask God to save and protect Egypt from every evil and cause all falseness to be unveiled, and to pray that God would select and anoint the next Orthodox Church Pope who will be chosen soon to lead the Coptic Church in unity and with a clear vision.