(Story Photo by Rae Burnett)
Egypt (MNN) ¯ The last day or two have been without blaring headlines describing Muslim rioting, but that could all change.
A French magazine this week published vulgar caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, despite government entreaties not to publish the images. In response, the French government ordered embassies and schools to close Friday in about 20 countries.
The incident is likely to raise tensions that were already dangerously high. It follows days of violent protests from Asia to Africa against the U.S.-produced film "Innocence of Muslims" and turned France into a potential target of Muslim rage
But don't be fooled, says Rae Burnett with Christian Aid Mission. "The film was just a pretext for the violence." She goes on to explain that the event gave a cover story for lashing out at intended targets--a theory that's been substantiated by the Libyan government. Further, says Burnett, "Since the violence has subsided, nothing has gotten better because these believers are in grave danger. They're afraid of being slaughtered because everything is intensifying."
That concern is magnified by the feeling of isolation. "They [extremists] are overtly burning churches and persecuting Christians and kidnapping their children...just terrible things far surpassing what they used to experience, and the world is silent."
Burnett says the real story is the uncertainty. Christian Aid supports indigenous ministries who seek to engage the lost people of Egypt through holding house meetings, setting up Bible training, and doing evangelistic outreach. She explains that "one of these guys called me the first day of the rioting in Egypt and said, ‘They're burning Bibles in front of the U.S. embassy.' They were doing those kinds of things just to show their hostility, and they were burning churches and things that weren't reported."
The threat plays out on the political stage, but Burnett says, "This is all spiritual warfare. We're seeing it in a political environment because that's the environment through which this takes place. But the point is to destroy the work of the Lord and to destroy those who might come into the Kingdom, to keep people in darkness."
Given that understanding, the workers supported by Christian Aid Mission haven't fled. "It hasn't diminished any of their efforts. The main group that we help just had a conference of their workers, training their workers and praying together to ask the Lord for direction. So they are going forward in the work, but they are really discouraged about the political situation and the future of Christianity in Egypt."
They're careful, but they won't be intimidated. Burnett says the Coptic Church is targeted because they have a noticeable presence in Egypt. However, "The people that we're helping generally meet in homes. They might have an office somewhere if they can afford that, so they're less of a target. Of course, because of their evangelistic efforts, people know who they are."
The Gospel, as she's said multiple times, is still going forward. It's about standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the worn out believers of Egypt and advancing together. Burnett says, "We have to understand that and pray accordingly and act accordingly to be lights in the darkness." Pray for creative and effective approaches to spread God's Word in Egypt. Pray for open hearts. Pray for change in the chaos.