Posted by: Titus Presler | February 3, 2011

Alexandria School of Theology leadership family writes on Egyptian turmoil

In these days of turmoil in Egypt, the reflections of Christians in that country assist us on the outside in praying for the country as a whole and for the Christian community, which had already been rocked by the New Year’s Eve bombing of a church in Alexandria.

The situation is Alexandria is made vivid through a letter sent out by Emad and Michelle Mikhail from the Alexandria School of Theology, a seminary founded in 2005 under the auspices of the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.  Emad is Principal of AST, and his wife Michelle I know from our shared missionary childhood in India.  The Primates’ Meeting of the Anglican Communion visited AST on 1 February 2009.

Available at AST’s website news are:

• Emad’s address on the occasion of the Anglican Primates’ visit

• Emad’s Jan. 4 letter in response to the New Year’s Eve church bombing

The Mikhails’ current letter echoes much of what the world has heard about the ebbs and flows of the current turmoil, and it gives an on-the-ground sense of the cares and prayers of local Christians in Alexandria and elsewhere:

Dear friends:

Undoubtedly you have been following events in Egypt over the past nine days.  First of all we want to assure you that we, our students, friends, relatives and church members are all safe.   Of course we have had to postpone classes at AST and cancel several church meetings, including Sunday services a few days ago. Instead we have urged all our people to pray daily at home at noon and again at 7 pm at least until the current crisis passes.   Our church members are reading the same passages each day and finding a lot of strength in the Scriptures.

So much has happened.  After days of protests, last Friday all police forces suddenly withdrew from Cairo, Alexandria and other cities in the north of the country.  Tens of police stations and other government installations were burned.  Several prisons were opened and thousands of prisoners escaped.  Army tanks began rolling into our cities and people enthusiastically welcomed them.  But before they reached all areas, gangs on Saturday terrorized many neighborhoods around the country.  In a fifteen minute period in the early evening we received four calls from relatives and church members both in Cairo and Alexandria saying that they are hearing screams and gunshots around their buildings. We immediately got on our knees and pleaded for safety and comfort.  Since then, neighborhood groups have set up local committees to protect homes and other vital installations around the country.  The internet was out for five days and just came back hours ago.  Even cell phone service went out for a couple of days.  We have spent a lot of time comforting people and even praying with them on the telephone.  One woman in our church called at midnight a couple of days ago to say that she is shaking.  She had heard that the Muslim Brotherhood is going to wage attacks and try to take over.  We assured her that this “revolution” is secular and that, in all cases, we are in God’s hand.  Thankfully she called half an hour later to say she is much calmer.  We are also very thankful that our area west of Alexandria has been very calm.  Our kids who work in Cairo have been in regular contact with us. We are very pleased that Joanna joined us on Saturday and David and Amira joined us today. David witnessed iconic events in downtown Cairo on Friday: tear gas, huge crowds, buildings being set ablaze, etc.

As we write late on Wednesday, events are still rapidly unfolding.  The army has brought a measure of calm.  However, peaceful protesters have been attacked by people sent in by the authorities.  Hundreds of people have been injured in Cairo alone during the past few hours.

We and many others are clearly worried about what is happening in the country.  But many positive things have happened.   Suddenly young people have hope and a sense of responsibility for the future of their country.  A hunger for freedom has suddenly exploded.  Amazingly, it is not being expressed in religious terms nor primarily by Islamic groups!  We believe that nothing short of a miracle is occurring and that the prayers of many years and many people are being answered.  However, the short term does seem uncertain and we need you to pray for a free and democratic Egypt in which everyone has the right to hold whatever political or religious views they wish to espouse.  Pray for Christians here to be salt and light in the midst of confusion and fear.

Thank you for your prayers at this crucial time.

Emad and Michelle Mikhail

Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

Here is the Mikhails’ missive of Thursday (today):

Dear friends and family,

We thank you all for your prayers and concern and appreciate your words of encouragement.  There are rumors that the net may be off again, so we are sending this out before that happens.

This email will try to address some of your questions.  It is true that many foreigners are leaving the country, but many are just going to Europe for a week or so as they wait for things to settle down. As for our friends here in the country, people are still jittery after the horrible looting that went on Saturday night and decreasingly on Sunday, and even Monday.  The Christians are terrified that the looters and those opening up the prisons are Muslim Brotherhood.  We do not see that this is the case.  However, the MB do seem to be becoming more outspoken and are actively participating on every level.  Most people are managing to get money and food.  However, there are people who were already financially fragile and are now in crisis.  We are helping those who we know.  ATM’s are being filled up.  The country is not very active, but some people are working.  We are personally finding it hard to do anything other than essentials, watch the news and keep in touch with people.

We continually pray for a peaceful and quick resolution.  We pray that all we have been through will not be in vain.  We pray for Christians to have the chain of fear broken that has oppressed them for years and still is very strong.  We pray for unity in the country between Christians and Muslims. These prayers as well as all the other obvious ones.

We believe that nothing that is happening is outside of God’s sovereign will and that He who holds history in His hands will accomplish His perfect will.

Emad and Michelle

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