Friday Prayers for Egypt: Blasphemy

God,

Egypt’s legal and judicial history is historic and impressive. Yet like other societies with a strong legal tradition, litigation is common. One result is often the slow pace of justice as cases can be tied up in court for years.

Yet this fact betrays the speed in which blasphemy cases have been processed recently. A number of Copts are under investigation or have already been sentenced for insulting Islam. The most recent case involves two children under the age of eleven.

What is behind this, God? Blasphemy laws have existed from before the revolution, so it is not simply a product of an Islamist regime. But the number of cases following the anti-Islamic film feels unprecedented. They are brought by individuals, not the state.

Weigh on the hearts of these men, God, to convict them if their zeal outpaces their mercy, if they are driven by judgment, or worse, by vindictiveness. Give wisdom to the judges as well, God. May they handle these cases with discretion and wisdom, submitting both to law and conscience.

Speak also to the accused, God. Rebuke them if they have intended offense; comfort them if they are unjustly tried.

There is even a Muslim under investigation, depicted on video burning a Bible. Many have noted his trial proceeds slowly, and he is not being detained. He acted at the scene of the US Embassy, perhaps enraged at the film in question.

If he was rash, help him seek forgiveness. If he was making a statement, give him guidance. If he sowed the seeds of discord in society, rebuke him.

But with him, God, and with all the others, spare them the judgment of law. And for those who cannot pray this sincerely, may the law be designed to justly honor both holy sanctities and inviolable freedoms.

And apart from the law, may honorable men of religion rush to forgive the offenders and show mercy. May they intercede for the accused in both this life and the next.

Weighty issues are at stake, God, beyond the dignity of each of these individuals. A constitution is soon to be written, which may well include provisions against blasphemy. Odd thoughts lend to conspiracy; was the outrage over the film meant to rally support? Could these cases be fast-tracked to provoke outrage and rally against?

And within this context, conflicting reports surround the small Coptic community in Rafah. They received threats if they did not leave the area. It seems some did, while the bishop denies they were forced. This may simply reflect the foibles of human nature. But if not, the story fits perfectly into either a conspiracy against Copts by Islamists, or into a conspiracy involving Copts (as either pawns or abettors) against Islamists.

But God, end the avails to conspiracy! In all these scenarios human lives are at stake. Open Egypt to a culture of transparency, so that men may live in dignity and know the reality of the challenges they face. Cease manipulations and constrain all manipulators. Establish soon a political system based on just principles and the consensus of society. May the constitution be written wisely and celebrated by all.

God, the impossibility of this task is well known, but intervene. Change the hearts of troublemakers and sincere disputants alike. Knit them together in this crucial stage, so that they may differ properly in the days to come.

Honor Egypt, God, and give her peace. Give her peace of mind.

Amen.

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