>President Obama Speaks Of "History Taking Place"
>Churches Expect Change To Constitution
>Army Now In Power
(ADDS MORE COMMENTS FROM OPEN DOORS)
By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- Amid the largest protests in his three decades rule, Egypt's embattled President Hosni Mubarak resigned Friday, February 11, but the future of the country's Christian minority remained uncertain as there was concern about the growing influence of Islamic hardliners in this mainly Muslim nation.
The announcement of Mubarak’s resignation came from Vice President Omar Suleiman on state television.
He said Mubarak "has decided to step down as president of the republic" and that he had asked the military to take control of the country. "May God help everyone," Suleiman said at the end of his statement.
In Washington, United States President Barack Obama said the world had "the privilege of seeing history taking place. Egypt will never be the same. By stepping down President Mubarak responded to the people's hunger for change." This is not the end, he warned. "The army will now have to protect the rights of Egyptian citizens. And laying the path to elections that are fair and free."
The United States will continue to be a friend and partner of Egypt, he said.
"PEOPLE OF FAITH"
Obama also pointed out that the world watched "people of faith praying together" including Muslims and Christians. "There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom."
Earlier the announcement of Mubarak's resignation drew a roar of cheers and honking automobile horns throughout the capital Cairo that went on for hours, witnesses said.
Thousands headed to Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, or 'Freedfom Square' to join the tens of thousands already there, where earlier both Muslims and Christians were seen praying for the future of the nation.
Yet, amid the euphoria over the resignation of Egypt's perceived "modern day Pharao", rights activists and aid workers expressed concerns about the future of Egypt's minority Christians, also known as Copts, amid reported Islamic extremism.
SEVERAL CHRISTIANS KILLED
More than a dozen Christians have already been killed in Egypt in recent days after security forces withdrew from key areas and rioters attacked Christian homes and churches, Christians missionaries said before Friday's announcement of Mubarak's resignation.
E3 Partners, a Christian mission group that works extensively in Egypt and the surrounding region, explained that at least 15 Christians were killed near the town of Al-Minya, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of the capital Cairo. "With no police available, no one was willing to help them."
Family members were taking turns keeping watch over their homes, as robberies, rape, looting, and car theft are occurring routinely now," explained E3 Middle East Director Tom Doyle earlier.
CHRISTIANS SHOPS ATTACKED
Among those attacking Christian shops, homes, churches and other properties were believed to be at least some of the thousands of inmates who escaped from prisons in recent days as well as supporters of Mubarak, including police ditching uniforms to participate in the mayhem, witnesses said.
It was the worst violence since on New Year's Day, a suicide bomber killed 22 Christians in front of the Two Saints Church in Alexandria.
With the army in charge and security returning to at least some areas, it was unclear whether more deaths among Christians could be prevented. Additionally "The future for Christians in Egypt also looks increasingly worrying," because of the political situation, said Barnabas Fund, an advocacy group helping Christian believers in Egypt.
Before he handed over power to the military, Vice President Suleiman held talks with the main Muslim Brotherhood opposition party and other groups but Christians were "excluded from dialog about the future of the country," Barnabas Fund told BosNewsLife.
Open Doors, an internationally known rights and advocacy group, shared these concerns. "Given recent polling data, if an election were to be held tomorrow, it's quite likely that Islamic extremists would have a significant--if not dominant--role to play in the new government," said Carl Moeller, who heads Open Doors USA. "An Open Doors source in the area said while international television is showing people celebrating, he has received mixed reaction from Christians to the resignation," the group added.
"The Pew Research Study conducted a survey that indicated 84 percent of Egyptian citizens said they would favor public execution of those who leave Islam for another religion...called 'apostasy'...which is in place in some Muslim countries. Seventy-six percent of Egyptians favor stoning for those caught in adultery," Moeller said.
Egypt is ranked number 19 on the Open Doors 2011 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.
Critics say that especially the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in the 1920s, has several militants among its ranks, including the number 2 of the Al-Qaeda terror network, Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was imprisoned for three years on weapons charges following Egyptian President Sadat's assassination in 1981.
Other analysts say that the the 'Nile Revolution' against Mubarak showed that demonstrators did not want more Islamic extremism. They point out that the Muslim Brotherhood so far did not poll more than 20 percent of voters and would not be the dominant force in a future government, which will be more secular than the strict Islamic rule in countries such as Iran.
However Muslim Brotherhood The group has reportedly also links to the militant Hamas group, which claimed suicide bombings and rocket attacks in Israel, and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine whose goal is the destruction of Israel, according to experts.
Copts comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population.