|With friends in front of the Egyptian National Museum|
Our first day in the country was spent touring the sites as we waited for the other office directors to arrive. We saw the Egyptian National Museum, the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Even though we were jet-lagged, words can’t describe seeing and touching things that were created by people who lived 4500 years ago. I never thought I’d see the pyramids, but I’m sure glad I did. Our tour guide is an Egyptologist by degree, and he was very good and knowledgeable. He told us everything we were seeing in relation to a biblical timeline – “when this was made, the Exodus had just happened” or “this Pharoah was in power when Joseph worked in Egypt”.
|The National Museum|
People here talk about Bible history in relation to the history of their own country, regardless of whether they’re a Christian or not. No one doubts these things happened because it’s what’s in their own historical and archeological records. It was interesting to me to hear how the legitimacy of the biblical account of history isn’t questioned here like it is in other (Western) places. How odd that we who live 1000’s of miles away question the history of a people who themselves have no doubts. So comparing Muslims in Egypt with non-believing Americans, it’s odd to me that the Egyptian Muslims view the bible with more respect and legitimacy. It would be like a group of Egyptians becoming outspoken about the ‘myth’ of Lewis and Clark’s expedition on the Oregon Trail. It just seems weird.
|Me with our tour guide - his comprehensive knowledge of|
Egyptian history was impressive!
Being a Christian is not illegal here in Egypt, but attempting to convert others to Christianity is. So while Christians are welcome to come here, most outright mission-based activity would be deemed illegal. For Westerners, the result of being caught is arrest and immediate deportation – as in they literally show up one day, put you in the car and drive you to the airport. Your family is picked up soon after and delivered to you, and then you’re all put on a plane to somewhere out of Egypt (often in Europe). This has happened to a number of ‘friends of friends’ we know of here in Egypt, so Westerners here are very much aware that this could happen to anyone, at any time. All it takes is for someone to become disgruntled and make a report about you, regardless of the facts, and you’ll likely be gone soon unless you can quickly prove your innocence.
|Great Pyramid selfie|
|Learning about the pyramids in Giza|
|It was so warm and muggy down inside one of the smaller|
pyramids I could hardly appreciate the fact of where I was.
|Three of the minor pyramids for the King's wife and family.|
You can also see some of the unused blocks discovered to
the left - insane how big they are and how they were able
to move and place them.
And actually, while we’ve been here, the law about Christians not evangelizing others has been reinforced, albeit more as a byproduct of another government target – radical forms of Islam. The new president signed a law that’s aimed at crippling past Muslim leadership groups, but will also certainly impact Christians.
The new law states that any foreigner coming to Egypt who tries to alter the culture or change or impact Egyptians in a manner that is contrary to current Egyptian customs can be sentenced to life in prison. So for instance, anyone coming here and working with battered women would need to be very careful that they weren’t viewed as trying to empower the women to attempt to change the status of women in the country. It just underscores the fact that foreign workers need to be careful about what they do and to understand the strict guidelines of their intended work as outlined in their work visa and/or organizational documentation. Most of the people we spoke with felt that deportation was still the most likely potential end game for them (as opposed to imprisonment). As I mentioned before, the Egyptian army is heavily financed and supported by the US, so throwing our citizens into prison wouldn’t be good for business.
|The great Sphynx!|
|A pretty cool shot of the Sphynx, with the Great Pyramid in|
the background. 4000 year old construction right there.
But the term ‘Christian’ can mean a few different things. The largest subset of Christians in Egypt are the ‘Coptic’ Christians, who are an orthodox church similar to the Catholic Church but who have their roots traced to the apostle Mark. In the middle of downtown Cairo, the Coptic Church’s Cathedral and version of Vatican City (more like a compound) is where the apostle Mark is now buried. (I say ‘now’ because he was originally buried in Rome, but the Italians returned his body to Cairo many years later out of respect and even support for the Coptic Church’s ability to survive and plants roots down in Egypt.
But as is sometimes a criticism of certain Catholics in America, many Coptics see their faith more from a heritage standpoint and not necessarily as something to give one’s life for. That’s not to say there aren’t devout and sincere Coptics (and certainly Catholics as well), but the long history of the faith lends itself to some identifying more with their family connection to the church rather than a personal commitment to their faith. Anyway, stepping out of this delicate subject now… Ha!
There are some ‘evangelical’ (their word, not mine) Christians in Egypt, though their numbers are relatively small. These people are generally committed to their faith and would most identify to the Christianity known in the West. However, sharing your faith for the purpose of ‘winning’ others to a similar belief is dangerous in Egypt, and often leads to imprisonment or worse for both convert and evangelist. So you can imagine how hard it would be to be a Christian in a place where sharing about your faith for the purpose of converting others is illegal. It’s a concept that is foreign to our American context and mindset. As you can see, Christians in Egypt could very much use your prayers as many have a resolve about them that is to follow God’s calling on all of us to share our faith.