Written by Anthony Moujaes
With tension and violence escalating in Egypt, the United Church of Christ is voicing a call for an end to religiously-motivated attacks that have left more than 1,000 people dead and 50 churches burned. The UCC joined the National Council of Churches in condemning those actions against Christians in the country, asking for an end to the violence and prayers for those affected by the conflict.
"The churches in Egypt are partners of the United Church of Christ through Global Ministries, and our relationships are longstanding and deep," said Peter Makari, area executive for the Middle East and Europe for Global Ministries — the joint ministry of the UCC and the Disciples of Christ. "We care for one another and share in each other's pain in this difficult time, and we pray for the peace of Egypt, and people of Egypt, in this national crisis."
In a recent statement, the National Council of Churches' expressed horror at the increase of violence in Egypt, and called on the involved parties to seek "a peaceful way forward." Makari, co-chairperson of NCC interfaith relations, helped draft the statement for the NCC with Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC associate general secretary, Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations. Makari noted the Egyptian government's decision "to rebuild all of the churches and church institutions that were destroyed."
Christians in Egypt are caught in the political and religious crossfire after a third coup in three years in the country, this one by the military. The overthrow has killed hundreds of supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, with Christian churches bearing the backlash.
The NCC statement expresses support and an urgent concern for Christian communities in both Egypt and in "Syria, the Palestinian territories, and elsewhere in the region where our hopes for peace after the beginning of the ‘Arab Spring' have been challenged."
The UCC has been a part of the NCC since its was formed in 1957. NCC was founded in 1950, and has 37 members from Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches across the nation.
"The urgency of our concern is prompted by the fervent call for our prayers by fellow Christians," the Council said, citing Coptic Orthodox, Protestant, Catholic, and other Christian communities. But it also stressed a deep concern for communities of all religious faiths, be it Christian, Jewish or Muslim.
"While the crisis is Egyptian, it has drawn the rapt attention of faith communities around the world, including the UCC," Makari said. "We are informed by our partners' perspectives, and are prepared to do what we can to participate appropriately in efforts to promote peace and stability."
The Council called upon the Egyptian government and all parties to the crisis to work toward a resolution of the conflict to guarantee the safety of the people of Egypt. They also asked the international community to support the end to violence, and reminded the United States government "to take whatever measures are necessary, including the appropriate scrutiny of aid to the Egyptian government, until this situation is remedied."
The full text of the NCC statement is as follows:
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA is deeply concerned with the events unfolding in Egypt since the recent change in government. Together with its partners worldwide, it has watched with horror the growing violence, and it has prayed for the cessation of this violence and the establishment of a peaceful way forward.
Our concern is rooted in our religious and historical ties to churches and Christians, as well as other partners and religious communities, in countries throughout the region. The urgency of our concern is prompted by the fervent call for our prayers by fellow Christians. And while our present thoughts are with our brothers and sisters in the Coptic and Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Catholic and other Christian communities of Egypt, they also remain with our brothers and sisters in Syria, the Palestinian territories, and elsewhere in the region where our hopes for peace after the beginning of the "Arab Spring" have been challenged. In the midst of violence, we pray for the peace and safety of our Christian sisters and brothers, as well as people of all faiths who suffer in a context of violence. We are deeply concerned for all of God's children caught in the cross-fire of violence – whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim.
We call upon the Egyptian government and all parties to the current crisis to work to put an end to the violence and to guarantee the safety of all innocent Egyptian citizens. We call on the international community to seek appropriate ways to work urgently and incessantly to promote an end to the violent conflict. And while we understand the many demands upon the United States government with respect to its complicated relationship with Egypt, we nevertheless call upon our government to take whatever measures are necessary, including the appropriate scrutiny of aid to the Egyptian government, until this situation is remedied.
We pray for the Christians in Egypt, whose lives have been threatened and even cut short, and whose churches and property have been attacked and burned. Christians believe in the Prince of Peace, and our churches are a testament to our faith in him. In Egypt, these churches have stood as a testament to this faith since the first century, and in peaceful coexistence with the Muslim and other communities of that country. We would expect that the new government, which has challenged extremist tendencies of the previous government, to more quickly demonstrate its moderation and tolerance toward their Christian neighbors by reining in those continuing extremist tendencies.
We pray for the souls of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Egypt who have died trying to foster peace in the midst of chaos, and for the building up of those who continue to do so despite the deteriorating conditions there.
And we extend our hopes and prayers for a return to a legitimate political process that will result in the guarantee of the rights and responsibilities of all of Egypt's citizens.