When No Choice Satisfies: Egyptian Presidential Elections

“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

As we approach the second round of voting in Egypt, we are all faced with the question of what to do and who to vote for. This question has been haunting most Egyptians for months and now we are left with three options: Ahmed Shafik, Mohamed Morsi, or the boycott. I know that those three phrases or words invoke a whole range of emotions to any reader, but I insist on walking us through this upcoming decision as Biblically and logically as I can.

We are all desperately trying to make a choice, but not just any choice, a good one. We want to feel at peace when we go to the ballot box or when we do not go. But for many of us, the reality is there is no good choice. To summarize, the difficulty lies in the fact that if we vote for Shafik, we are voting for someone who openly represents the failure of the revolution but presents the potential of stability.  This is something many of us, as Christians, yearn for, and potentially voted for in the first round of elections. If we vote for Morsi, we are voting for a government controlled by one religion, threatening a serious infringement on the rights of all citizens, Christian and Muslim alike.  If we boycott, we are giving our vote to those who support one of these two disastrous choices for Egypt.

The premise of this article rests on the assumption that all Christians should be civically and politically engaged. I strongly believe that it is our duty as any other citizen to be involved and even though we are asked to not be conformed to the world around us (Romans 12:2) there is strong thematic and direct instruction for us to engage in our societies. Even though we are a minority in our own country and often detect persecution and discrimination, we are not freed from our duty to our nation. Jeremiah, in chapter 29, carried a message to the remaining elders, priests, prophets, and people who had been taken into exile to Babylon, a city that was not even their own. This is what he said, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

My fellow brothers and sisters, let us now seek the welfare of our own country. But how can we when we are picking between two unsatisfactory choices?

Some will not be able to come to a decision between the two candidates and they will boycott. I myself am wrestling with that choice. By boycotting the election, we can make it a political statement of our opposition to the choice between apparent religious or military rule.  The revolution opposes both these choices.  Boycotting is not resigning from a responsibility, but on the contrary, can be a way of invalidating the elections, a rejection of the options presented.

As we consider these options, we should not be driven by fear but by the teachings and promises of Christ. As Christians, we should be concerned for what Christ was concerned about: the poor, the fatherless, and the widows. In other words, it is the good of humanity that should drive us as we seek the welfare of our nation. On that basis, we vote. So if we are to vote, then we vote for the man that will care for the people.

But do either of the candidates guarantee the protection of human rights and of humanity? This is not easily answered. While we have sufficient reason to doubt their dedication to human rights, there is much that we do not know.

For a time I considered voting for Shafik. It was because I was considering the long term effects each candidate would have on Egypt and the people. Ultimately I do not want to see the long term consequences that Morsi may have on the nation, on culture, religion, society, and education, especially since he would be an Islamist president with an Islamist parliament, enjoying the monopoly of power. Shafik, however, represented a balance of power vis-a-vas the Islamists, which in other words means that he would be the brake pads (or bureaucracy) for the country as continues during this transition. It does not mean that Shafik would necessarily make the positive changes we want for our country, but the damage done could quite possibly be less.

Then, the verdict on the trial for the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, was released on the 3rd of June. While some justice was served to him and one other, the whole nation was shocked at the news of eight to nine others being released – not proven guilty. As a nation we are still no closer to justice over the deaths of hundreds of people. The shock has pushed hundreds of people to Tahrir, including myself. We have been cornered a week or two before elections, just as occurred before the Parliamentary elections in January.

Prayer will be our foundation as we look at our options and prepare for voting once more. I do know what I will do, or who I will vote for. I know one thing though, that Christ is in control of this nation and is in control of our future here. So as we seek the welfare of our nation, we also remember this promise:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10).

 

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