When we met with the Governor of Cairo, we discovered that he was a graduate of the University of Minnesota. Having lived in Minnesota for eight years, I talked with him about Minnesota’s long winters and the stark climate contrast with the Nile Delta. At the time, the United States was engaged in the early stages of the Iraq war. While he disagreed with what our nation was doing in the Middle East, he reassured us that Egyptians liked Americans and wanted to foster business relationships with our country.
We visited the Pyramids in the Giza desert. I stood at the foot of the Pyramid of Cheops, constructed almost five thousand years ago. It is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence. Time seemed to collapse in the shadow of its towering presence. Abraham saw this same Pyramid in its polished glory when he first visited Egypt with his wife, Sarah. His great-grandson, Joseph, visited it as the prime minister of Egypt. Moses looked on this pyramid when he was growing up in Pharaoh’s court. This pyramid formed the skyline for those who labored in bondage prior to the Exodus.
I visited the place where the Coptic Christians believe Joseph and Mary lived with their infant son, Jesus when they fled Herod’s soldiers. It was from this place that Joseph and Mary returned to their native home in Nazareth fulfilling the prophecy, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.“
We traveled to Alexandria, the seaport city on the Mediterranean that became the first center for Christian learning. The early church theologians Didymus, Clement and Origen, taught here. I stood at the modern library overlooking the deep blue waters that lapped at the shore, then walked through the catacombs where first century Christians hid from Roman persecution.
Coptic Christians make up approximately ten percent of the Egyptian population and trace their origins to the evangelistic efforts of Mark, author of the first gospel written about Jesus. Christianity rapidly spread across Egypt in the early centuries and was embraced by the vast majority of Egyptians until 1000 AD. In recent years our home church in Texas fostered a partnership with an Evangelical Church in Egypt that reaches out to thousands and proclaims the message of Christ to the Middle Eastern world.
In the twentieth century Egypt was often a stabilizing force in the Arab world. But today it is racked with riots and unrest. Over 800 people died last week following the government crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood who had targeted Christian homes and churches for persecution after their leader Mohammad Morsi was removed from power. Last weekend the police arrested the brother of al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri. Egypt’s future hangs in the balance.
I am praying for Egypt, its leaders and its people that God’s hand will rest on this historic nation to establish peace, freedom and a future.