How MB-Evangelical Dialogue Began

On February 28, 2012 the leaders of the Evangelical Churches of Egypt met with the Muslim Brotherhood, and produced a document delineating the shared values of both organizations.

About a month ago I posted the text of this agreement online. Today, my article was published on Christianity Today, drawing out from leaders on both sides the substance of what exactly was agreed upon. Please click here to read it on their site.

Seventeen evangelical signatories are listed; perhaps the one most surprising comes at the very end.

Rev. Rifaat Fikry is the pastor of an evangelical church in Shubra, a densely populated suburb to the north of Cairo well known for its high concentration of Christian residents.

Rev. Fikry is well known for his strident anti-Islamist stance. In fact, it is this very posture which involved him in the dialogue in the first place.

President of the Evangelical Churches Rev. Safwat el-Bayadi and Vice-President Rev. Andrea Zaki first contemplated the quiet invitation of the Muslim Brotherhood, issued through Dr. Rafik Habib. Habib is a controversial figure in evangelical circles. He is the son of Rev. Samuel Habib, founder of the Coptic Organization for Social Services – one of the largest charity and development groups in the country.

He is also a vice-president in the Freedom and Justice Party, the political branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Coptic community of Egypt is very wary of Islamists, fearing an agenda they believe will result in their marginalization and loss of citizenship rights. Knowing full well the sentiment of their flock, Bayadi and Zaki turned to Fikry as the best exemplar and most informed of those who could express Coptic fears through an evangelical lens.

They asked him to write a letter to the Brotherhood detailing every concern, complaint, and consternation. After review, Bayadi and Zaki placed their names on the document, and sent it to the Brotherhood through Habib.

As the original author, it was only appropriate for Fikry to attend the subsequent meeting. He was especially interested to sit face to face with Brotherhood leaders, to ask them the questions at the heart of his opposition. During the sessions, he did so, with boldness.

In the end, Fikry was very pleased with the document. His main complaint lies in the Brotherhood’s rejection of referencing international treaties on human rights. MB leaders were concerned this could open the door to an acceptance of homosexuality, but Fikry argued nothing of the sort. His concern was for religious rights principally.

Even as the meeting ended, Fikry maintained an anti-Islamist stance. He was skeptical; after many months he finds confirmation that the Brotherhood simply used the evangelical churches for political gain.

But he is not regretful. Fikry is clear that he will sit for dialogue with anyone. The lasting value in the meeting comes not only from the agreed upon document, but also from the beginning of relationship. Though this has not continued in subsequent months, it still exists. If Islamists reach to power – a proposition Fikry finds very unlikely – these relationships could be invaluable. If not, they are valuable all the same.

They enable a man to say his piece, and to hear an answer directly.

As the evangelical churches and Muslim Brotherhood agreed, this is part and parcel of citizenship.

The only question, for Fikry especially, is of implementation. Even so, fear thereof should not preclude the effort.

On the contrary, such fear demands it.

Note: Christianity Today also published a feature text on Egypt and the responses of Christian leaders to the transition period. Please click here for access, and click here for the article on the MB-Evangelical agreement.

 

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