The world is focused on Egypt, a land that has always figured prominently in the Bible. When Matthew wrote about Mary and Joseph’s escape to Egypt to protect their child, he paused to note the prophetic fulfillment: “And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” (Mt. 2:15).
When I went to Egypt a few years ago, I visited the Coptic Church built on the spot where Joseph and Mary supposedly lived during the first years of Jesus’ life. I also visited the pyramids and stood in the awe inspiring shadow of these immense structures that stand like sky scrapers in the desert. I reflected on the fact that these same pyramids stood where they stand today when Abraham first came to Egypt, when Joseph ruled as Prime Minister and when Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s courts. Standing on that spot, the sweep of history suddenly seemed to shrink and the events of the Bible appeared as current events.
My visit to Egypt with a group of Christian leaders came at a tense moment. Our troops were poised to attack Iraq and war was imminent. While there, we had the opportunity to sit down with the governor of Cairo. We first learned that the governor was a graduate of the University of Minnesota. We visited about Minnesota seasons, the long brutal winter and the contrasts with the climate in Egypt. Then we asked him, “What is it that you need in Egypt.” His response was quick and clear. He first stated that they were not pleased with everything the United States is doing in the Middle East. And then he said, “We like Americans. And we want your business.” Each year thousands of Egyptian young people graduate from their schools and universities. They are well educated and well trained, but they have no jobs. More than anything else, he stated, they needed businesses to flourish and provide jobs for their people.
The governor’s statements presaged much of the conflict that is presently broiling in the streets of this ancient city. They also revealed a new reality for those of us engaged in global missions. In Egypt as in many other predominantly Muslim countries, the doors for traditional missionaries remains closed. But the door for Christian entrepreneurs is open.
Today Hosni Mubarak resigned as president and handed control of the country to the military. While the military promises a transition to greater democracy, it is still unclear what the final results will be. Hopefully recent events will result in a more open democracy with freedom of religion and free speech. But it could result in an oppressive fundamentalist Islamic state similar to what happened in Iran when the Shah was removed. One thing is clear, what happens in Egypt affects world history and will doubtless shape the global future for our children. Spiritual and political forces are vying for dominance in the Middle East. Turkey and Iran represent the struggle between Shiite and Sunni Muslims for control. At the same time, more Muslims are turning to Christ than at any time in history. We need to pray that God will use this current crisis in Egypt for His glory and that God will provide an open door for the gospel. It could be that the pathway to faith and peace in the Middle East could come “out of Egypt.”