Cairo, February 11, 2011: A day that neither Egypt nor the world would ever forget. Recently appointed Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman made the breath-taking announcement the entire nation had been waiting to hear. President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, the man who had ruled Egypt for nearly thirty years, was stepping down from power. This man with the iron grip, who seemed as immovable as the ancient Sphinx itself, was toppled from power after only 18 days of protest. The scenes of jubilation are reminiscent of the heady days 25 years ago when ‘Filipino People Power’ led to the overthrow of President Ferdinand Marcos and the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall which lead to the liberation of Eastern Europe.
Upon hearing the news, the nation erupted in a delirious display of joy. From Alexandria to Cairo to Suez, the move was triumphant, exhilarating, and ecstatic, with soldiers and civilians standing hand-in-hand while fireworks lighted the sky. There were many refrains like (some of them ‘tweets’):
• I’m free, I’m free
• Democracy is so sweet
• For the first time in my life, I am proud to be an Egyptian
• I have never lived a better moment in my life
• Now I will vote for the first time in my life
• From now on, we will make our own future.
• It is a great day for Egypt.
• Amazing ... absolutely amazing ... in just 18 days ... and he’s gone.
Despite the understandable apprehension of the outside world -- after all, Egypt, a major nation whose destiny affects the region and the world, has embarked on an unknown path -- it was hard not to rejoice with the Egyptians who were tasting what many westerners have taken for granted: people power and freedom. The scenes coming from Cairo were deeply moving. After 5,000 years of pharaonic and pharaonic-like leadership, for the first time ever, the people of Egypt had their say on who should not be in-charge.
What sparked the protests? For years, Egyptians have lived under ‘Emergency Laws,’ which granted the police broad powers, suspended constitutional rights, and gave authorities a blank cheque to act with impunity. This had been a major grievance. Mubarak argued that these laws were necessary for combating terrorism and, indeed, Egypt did have an Islamist insurgency around 1992 not unlike that happening in Algeria at the same time. But these laws were a source of deep dissatisfaction and also spawned much police brutality. Other issues were rampant corruption, the lack of free, fair elections and freedom of speech. Economic inequities also came into the fore, with high food prices, low wages, massive unemployment. After watching the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in nearby Tunisia, and facilitated by mobile phones, internet, Facebook and Twitter, Egyptians seized the moment.
Now that the President is gone, what will happen next? With the Arab world’s most populous country (80 million strong) in the throes of change, will it affect petrol prices and our overall security from terrorism? Will it mean war or peace?
Remember, Egypt is no ordinary nation. It is a born leader with an extraordinary history and heritage. Egypt affects the entire Muslim world, Arab world, and African continent. So the situation deserves much watching. It appears that Egyptians in recent years have been pro-Islamist, anti-western, and anti-Israel. Indeed, one of their most popular songs is Ana bukrah Israel (I Hate Israel). This is not the kind of good foundation necessary for pluralism, peace, and democracy.
There are three possible scenarios:
1. The replacement of a military-backed regime of Mubarak with a military regime, OR;
2. An Islamist government takes power, extinquishes all forms of democracy, represses human rights, and sets up a theocratic dictatorship OR;
3. A pluralistic, multi-party, parliamentary democracy is established with genuine elections, freedom of speech and worship.
At the moment, everyone is saying the right thing. The military has dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution, and said they would be in power for only a matter of months until free elections could be held. They have promised genuine reform and a swift transfer to civilian government. The Muslim Brotherhood, whom many westerners fear could take over Egypt and install an Islamist dictatorship, has said they would not field a candidate for President and are committed to a multi-party state. The the average person in Tahrir (Liberation) Square has said repeatedly that they want freedom for all.
One gauge of genuine change would be if the military lifts the Emergency Laws. If so, then their commitment to change would be affirmed. Another sign involves the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group. Is it truly committed to non-violence and multi-party democracy and pluralism, or are their recent soothing statements just tactical? Time will tell.
What’s likely to happen to Egypt in the future. The 1979 peace treaty with Israel is one key area. Though it has been an unfriendly and even cold peace, the treaty has held. The Israeli embassy is still open in Cairo. Will a change of government, especially an Islamist-dominated one, tear up the peace treaty?
Not necessarily. As much as Egypt may be wary of Israel, it neither has the money nor the will to fight another war, anytime soon. War-weariness was one of the key reasons that former Egyptian President Anwar al Sadat (1970-1981) signed the peace treaty in the first place. As always in the Middle East, relationships, like the history, can be deep and complicated. So, for the moment, the treaty is safe.
Is Egypt part of end-time prophecy? Yes, but not in the manner one would expect for such a major power. Consider two important Bible prophecies. One is Psalm 83, which speaks of a coalition of neighboring nations conspiring to destroy Israel. ‘They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance’ (Psalm 83:4 KJV). There is a list of conspirators, including Israel’s near neighbours of Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, though they are not labelled as such. Yet Egypt receives no explicit mention whatsoever. Israel apparently survives the fray. To our knowledge, Psalm 83 is yet-to-be fulfilled and could be the next item on the prophetic agenda. With unrest in Algeria, Yemen, Jordan, Iran, Bahrain, and even Libya, a coalescing of ‘raging nations’ (Psalm 2:1), Psalm 83 could be nearer than we think.
Then there is the monumental prophecy called Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 38-39.In it a great power from the north (traditionally identified as Russia) leads of a coalition of nations to destroy regathered Israel. These nations include Persia (Iran), Phut (Libya), and Cush (Ethiopia or Sudan). Note that Egypt is not mentioned and neither are Israel’s near neighbours. Were they neutralized after the Psalm 83 war? We need to watch and be sober (I Thessalonians 5:6).
After these horrible wars, comes a long-lasting future event. The superhighway from Egypt to Iraq via Israel, mentioned in Isaiah 19:23-25, is open for good. No longer adversaries, no longer in a state of war, no longer beset by corruption and tyranny, these nations make a glorious chain link of peace for the whole world to enjoy.
What’s next for Egypt? Ultimately, it is all good, all glory, and all God. May the LORD hasten His word to perform it!