Western Christians must 'run toward Egypt,' worker says
CAIRO (BP)--The monumental changes taking place in Egypt should be a clarion call for Western Christians to "run toward Egypt" and take advantage of an opportunity decades in the making, said a Christian worker deeply familiar with the country.
"How long have we been asking the church around the world to pray for the [unreached parts of the world]?" Ron Robinson* asked. "I know for 29 years I've been asking American churches, churches in the United Kingdom, Korean Christians to pray for Egypt -- that doors would open" to share the Gospel.
"Our prayers are being answered right now.... This is God's hand at work."
The resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and the major transitions in Egypt present a variety of creative ways for Christians around the world to have a positive impact on the country, Robinson said. But he is concerned the Western church will miss the opportunity out of fear, adding that the "window of opportunity won't last forever."
"American Christians -- Western Christians -- are scared to death of this part of the world. So many churches have said, 'We can't come, we can't be there, we're afraid to come physically,'" Robinson said. "But right now we are seeing the answer to our prayers.
"So instead of stepping back in fear, we need to step in and roll up our sleeves and get in the fields white unto harvest.
"But where are the workers? Our near-culture believers -- our local believers -- are all going to be working. They need others to stand beside them."
With an entire economy that needs to be rebuilt, for instance, it presents a "significant opportunity" for Christian businessmen to "come along beside Egyptians and help them and teach them," Robinson said.
The major shift now under way in social structures will present another unprecedented opportunity, Robinson said, noting that Egyptians -- like many other members of Arabic cultures -- are very family oriented. Often, entire families occupy a single apartment building. However, because of the faltering economy over the past few decades, Egyptians have become more transient.
Even though the social divide between Muslims and Christians has grown, they often wind up as next-door neighbors, rarely speaking to one another, Robinson said. But that changed during the recent political upheaval, when men stood shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors -- regardless of their religion -- to protect their homes from looters. It's another answer to prayer, Robinson said.
"This widening gap between Christians and Muslims over the decades is now slamming together," he said. "And it is going to be a great door-opener."
Egypt is a pivotal country in the Middle East, Robinson said. With a population of more than 80 million, many Egyptians move to other countries to find employment as everything from day laborers to university professors and business executives. With about 10 percent of the population being at least nominally Christian, there is a significant missionary force just among Egyptian Christians, Robinson believes.
"We have a small Baptist convention in Egypt, but it is strong," he said. "We have a number of believers who can't be open about their faith, but they are strong. They need support."
But the opportunity to support local believers and reach Muslims open to the Gospel is tenuous, Robinson warned.
"God has opened an opportunity, but it isn't going to last forever," he said. "It is a time to stand beside Egypt and not forget Egypt. We need to continue to bear down in prayer for Egypt. It is time to run toward Egypt instead of running away from this part of the world."
*Name changed. Reed Flannigan is a writer with the International Mission Board based in Europe.