In a stunning turn of events on Wednesday, Egypt's military removed President Mohamed Morsi from office and took him into custody.
This occurred 48 hours after the Egyptian military issued to the president an ultimatum to broker a new agreement with his political opponents or be removed from power. After deposing the president, the military suspended the Constitution and installed an interim government. New elections are expected later this year.
For weeks, millions of everyday Egyptians have signed a petition calling for Morsi to step down. They demanded a new election to elect a president to address Egypt's weakened economy and political paralysis. Starting Sunday, June 30, Egyptians began protests across the nation.
This effort received a major boost when on Tuesday, July 2, Tawadros II, pope of Egypt's 9 million Coptic Orthodox, tweeted in Arabic:
"It's wonderful to see the Egyptian people—through the idea of Tamarod and its youth—taking back their stolen revolution in a peaceful way." Tamarod is the name of the grassroots rebel movement that organized the petition.
Their petition says in part:
"Since the arrival of Mohamed Morsi to power, the average citizen still has the feeling that nothing has been achieved so far from the revolution goals which were life in dignity, freedom, social justice and national independence. Morsi was a total failure in achieving every single goal, no security has been reestablished and no social security realized, thus and gave clear proof that he is not fit for the governance of such a country as Egypt."
Public Call for Peaceful Protest
For Christians and their leaders in Egypt, the big question has been whether publicly support the rebel movement or stand with the democratically elected government despite recent declines in religious freedom.
Atef Gendy, president of the well-known Evangelical Theological Seminary, in the Abbassia section of Cairo, released this statement on June 30:
"In the past, previous regimes pushed the Church to give them support, by controlling Christians and calling them not to oppose standing regimes. In the long run, this minimized the effective role of Christians, separating them from the rest of society and depriving them of the liberty to act independently as full, mature citizens according to their faith and conscience. Now we have learned our lesson and refuse to be a tool in the hand of any regime.
"We believe that Christians are full citizens, who have the complete right to express themselves peacefully in the way they like. Nevertheless, we call Christians and Muslims as they demonstrate to avoid all sorts of violence or destruction. We also see that religious institutions cannot dispense with their moral and prophetic responsibility in exposing mistakes and corruption. The simple requirements of the Egyptians for which they revolted over 2 years ago and are now rebelling, are fair, legal, and logical. They deserve the support of everyone and of all civil and social institutions including the religious ones.
"How can partners and friends help us?"
Please pray earnestly that the Lord may protect our nation during this very critical time. As we have seen, each of the different expected scenarios includes elements of risk that can divide and damage the country for years.
Please pray for special wisdom and unity for church leaders to be able to actively participate in this critical moment of change and transformation, standing bravely against corruption and injustice without being trapped in being politically used by any party.
Please do what you can to stand against unwise and inappropriate polices which Western governments sometimes adopt as they support political powers that have a dark history of violence and terrorism. These short sighted polices, will damage the countries of the Middle East and soon afterwards will be a thorn in the flesh to the rest of the world."
In coming months, Christian leaders anticipate a more influential role in the promised elections. During the past year, Christians in Egypt have uniformly spoken out in favor of a system that affirms equal rights for all religious groups. They alleged the Morsi regime wrongly favored fundamentalist Islam to the detriment of Christians and other religious minorities.