Egyptian revolution is close to home for local professor

Safwat Marzouk, an Egyptian professor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, offers his perspective on Egypt's recent political changes.

Posted on July 16, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 16, 2013 at 4:34 p.m.

Safwat Marzouk has been paying close attention to Egypt in the news.

The assistant professor of Old Testament at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart has lived in Egypt most of his life. Though he moved to the Midwest in 2011, his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews still live in central Egypt.

In a visit to Egypt this winter, he stood in El-Tahrir square to participate in the second anniversary of Egypt’s revolution on Jan. 25, 2011.

On July 3, Egypt’s military ousted Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, after his first year in office. Morsi has been replaced by Adly Mansour, head of the High Constitutional Court. Tensions between Morsi supporters and opponents continue.

For Marzouk, Egypt “has, and will be in my heart” as it again enters a time of unrest, he said in an email interview.

Since “instability has become the norm” in Egypt since January 2011, Marzouk said it has been “normal to follow closely how things have been unfolding over the past 2 1/2 years in Egypt,” especially with the second wave of the revolution starting on June 30.

Marzouk hopes his fellow Egyptians can obtain a similar sense of “freedom, stability and security” that he’s found in the United States.

However, from the reports that Marzouk has received from his contacts in Egypt, he says the search for stability has seen its challenges.

When Morsi was elected a year ago, Marzouk said that many Egyptians hoped he would lead the country to reach the goals of the revolution, “livelihood, freedom and justice.” Throughout the year, Marzouk said Morsi betrayed these goals, rewriting the constitution without a political consensus and detaining or killing protestors.

“The hope for and the belief in change that flourished after the 25th January 2011 revolution were met with many challenges and obstacles,” Marzouk wrote. “Thus the reports that my family and friends share with me vary between hope, frustration, anger, excitement, etc.”

Marzouk describes the second wave of the revolution this month as arriving out of “anger and courage.”

“Anger because things did not go in the right way they wished,” he said, “and courage to change the status quo.”

Marzouk said the movement, called “tamarood,” or rebel, started two months ago when citizens gathered signatures to call for Morsi’s resignation. When Morsi chose to ignore the movement, demonstrations rose around the country and the military ousted him and appointed an interim president.

Marzouk said that the United States media are describing what happened in Egypt as a military coup. To Marzouk, this is not accurate.

“A military coup describes the case when the military removes a political power and takes the power over,” Marzouk said. “This is not the case in Egypt. The people initiated and (hopefully) the power will be handed in soon to civilians.”

Marzouk sees hope in the second wave of the revolution.

“The military council this time did the right thing, with constitution first, presidential and parliament elections next,” he said. “What the majority of the Egyptians did on the streets on July 3 was democracy embodied.”

As a Christian Egyptian who is also a professor, Marzouk said he works to “empower the voice of Christian Egyptians in particular and middle eastern Christians in general.” He said he strives to communicate the struggles of Christian Egyptians in an American context and “point out resources in the Bible that empower the Christian minority.”

Marzouk said he hopes Americans can approach Egypt’s situation with grace and understanding.

“I invite Americans to get to know Egypt and the Egyptians (Muslims and Christians) I invite you to know them as human beings who long for freedom, justice and peace. I invite Americans to join in with their fellow Egyptians to work together towards a just peace in the Middle East,” he said.

Marzouk received his Ph.D. in the Old Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary. He lives in Elkhart with his wife, Carolin, and children, Calista, 6, and Julian, 2.

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