And on a special Ozarks Tonight, we have our political analyst Dr. Brian Calfano back in the studio and fresh from his trip to Egypt. Brian, good to see you.
Last Sunday you showed us some of what it’s like for Christians in Egypt.
That’s right David, and tonight is our follow-up.
You know, being a Christian in the Ozarks is a comfortable fit for most believers.
People just like you sit in pews on a Sunday morning with little fear of retribution.
But how easy would it be to practice your faith in a country where Christians are the minority?
Well, last week I discovered that the Christian experience in Egypt is not what we here in the Ozarks might expect.
For one, Christians and Muslims interact frequently and often as friends.
“Two of my best friends are Muslim, and it’s one of the things that helped me out, a lot,” Nader Iskandar, an Egyptian Christian said.
But the “help” Nader referred to is just as much a part of this story as the Christian/Muslim closeness.
Though Christians hold important positions in business, the Egyptian police, and military, there is little chance for them to take high-level government roles.
There are also softer forms of discrimination against Christians, like harassment for not fasting during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.
Christianity in Egypt is also different from the Ozarks because Evangelism, one of the hallmarks of Christian action, can get you in trouble.
It is illegal to try to convert a Muslim to Christianity in Egypt, but conversion from Christianity to Islam is okay.
This might be part of the reason that Christian Dina Touta says she and her close Muslim friends don’t get into the question of who’s right on religion.
“We do not debate or discuss religion because neither one of us is interested in converting the other to a different religion,” Dina Touta, an Egyptian Christian said.
As we discovered last week, Egyptians focus much more on their national identity, not their religious differences.
In fact, the persecution Christians face in Egypt is often similar to what Egyptian Muslims confront.
This is because oppression is usually political, with civil liberties curtailed for all.
And regional experts say Muslims and Christians in Egypt may be stronger when they face down discrimination together.
“I think the whole society sticking together is real protection for minorities in Egypt, regardless of whether the law is applied and the constitution is in effect or not,” Middle East expert Rasha El-Ibiary said.
So, what should Ozarks Christians take from all this?
First, celebrate our religious freedom in this country.
Second, protect this freedom by supporting expression for religious minorities in our own backyard – it’s a great example to countries where Christians are the minority.
Third, and if you’re still skeptical about the fate of Egyptian Christians, take Dina up on her offer to all our viewers.
“Maybe they could come to Egypt and experience themselves the Egyptian experience,” Touta said. “I would not classify it as a Christian/Muslim. It’s the Egyptian experience of living side to side in pure harmony and happiness.”