Egypt Brief – March 2019

Amendments to the Egyptian Constitution between Refusal and Criticism

By Michel Audi

 

News

The approval by the Egyptian parliament of constitutional amendments allowing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to remain in office until 2034 has not passed quietly. Social networking sites have been flooded with comments critical of this move, amid other criticisms of the dark situation in Egypt.

The amendments include the extension of the presidential term to six years, instead of four, with an additional provision that the president cannot be elected for more than two consecutive sessions.

Analysis

From an opponent’s point of view, these amendments focus authority in the hands of the president, who has been accused by human rights organizations of launching the worst crackdown on freedoms in the history of modern Egypt.

It is noteworthy that these amendments have raised more than a question mark in terms of timing and content. Egypt underwent two revolutions during a short period of time against injustice and the rule of “one man.” Martyrs gave their life to the cause of achieving justice and democracy and for the establishment of the principle of rotating leadership.

Egyptians have been interacting with social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to express their points of view. Some have declared that:

What is happening in our country is dangerous, and if the institutions do not announce their rejection of this plot, these amendments will be a partner in the crime of the era. What is going on is not to preserve what is in place despite its calamity. What is worse, these amendments destroy institutions and abolish the state in favor of one person.

Activists have also shared videos of President Sisi from two years ago in which he praised the current Egyptian constitution, stressing that this constitution left no room for the return of dictatorship to Egypt, and that any Egyptian president will not be able to remain in power for any longer than four years.

The opinion of the church, however, was revealed by Father Makari Younan, a Coptic priest who has influence in the Egyptian Christian community, when He declared: “Egypt has not seen a president like him before; he is faithful, and his life is impeccable. He is just, and we want his mandate to be for a lifetime.”

Theological and Missiological Reflections

We find in Judges 8:22-23 the first attempt to establish a monarchy:

The men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us – you and your son and the son of your son – because you have saved us from the hand of Midian. Gideon said unto them, “I will not rule nor shall my son. The Lord shall rule over you.”

Gideon succeeded in this test by proclaiming God as king, because Gideon was still walking in the Spirit. He was not tempted here by power but accepted being a servant of the people. He noted that the people of Israel attributed the victory to him, saying, “For you have saved us.” But Gideon rejected this and attributed the credit to God in victory. And if God is the one who won, then let God rule the people: “The lord will rule over you.” This is because the people saw only their immediate interests as their eyes focused only on the tangible before them and not on God, failing to take the right attitude of faith.

Like the people during Gideon’s judgeship, we Christians of the Middle East often fail to perceive reality as it is and align ourselves with kings and strongmen only because we see them as protecting our position as minorities in a country with an Islamic majority. But, faithful Christianity also requires honest citizenship. How can a Christian committed to his or her faith express love for their homeland? Is this just through internal devotion to his or her homeland? And how sincere is it? Does it simply represent loyalty to one’s own personal safety? Or, does sincerity to faith sometimes require us to stand firm on certain positions in the face of power? What are the limits before which the Christian must stop, lest s/he contradicts her or his faith in the Lordship of Christ?

A Christian is a citizen who belongs to a country and is subject to its laws, and every injustice against the nation is an injustice against its citizens. The Church must be an agent of justice and stand opposed to injustice and prejudice. The Church, as an agent of change in society, must act for the common good. This could mean standing firm on controversial issues, whereby such confrontations may sometimes amount to self-sacrifice.