Two months ago (here), I posted that the “Arab Spring” was in danger of bringing about a “Christian Winter”. Following recent elections and other changes in the Middle East, this is sadly coming to pass. In all the countries of the North African coast (the Maghreb), from Morocco to Egypt, Islamist groups are rising to the top of the political pile. News items about Libya, where a democratic wind was assumed to be blowing, statements about the introduction of Sharia Law reveal Isalmist trends. In Egypt, Christians have been under pressure more intense than used to appear under President Mubarraq’s rule. Throughout the region, the Muslim Brotherhood is showing itself to be the best organised political group entering the nascent political systems taking shape.
The Muslim Brotherhood is the oldest of the Islamic fundamentalist groups, having been founded in 1928. Outlawed in many countries because of their extreme views they have been the parent of a number of similarly extreme bodies, not the least of which is Hamas. They have for decades done their work in relative obscurity and secrecy, quietly bringing their influence to bear in many countries, including Britain. Because of their strong extant structure and organisation, they have now shown themselves to be the only group properly prepared to enter the potentially democratic arena as despots and oppressive regimes fell around them. This bodes ill for Christians in the region as well as for future relations between Muslim Middle Eastern states and Israel.
On 9th December in a House of Lord’s debate on the situation of Christians in the Middle East, the Archbishop of Canterbury said,
“[The Arab Spring which] began as a distinctively non-sectarian set of movements has inevitably opened the door to some of those Islamic political activists who suffered repression under the old regimes.”
You can read a good report on the debate by the Evangelical Alliance here. That the Archbishop himself initiated this debate, which lasted for some five hours, is an indication that concern for the Middle East’s long-persecuted Christians is rising. The concern is well-founded and we should be looking to our political leaders to exert pressure on new regimes that are being almost inexorably dominated by a resurgent Muslim Brotherhood – a movement who surely believes that its extremist time has come!