Cairo CallingMonday, February 14, 2011
All eyes have been turned toward Cairo of late. A revolution has taken place with stunning speed; in a handful of days an autocratic leader in power for over three decades has been removed.
The genesis of the uprising has been widely seen as the convergence of three factors that together made up a "perfect storm" of revolution:
1) a large population of young people (today the Arab world has over 100 million people between the ages of 15 and 29);
2) widespread poverty and unemployment;
3) and the availability of social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and texting for communication and organization.
I was in Cairo eight months ago. Not only was I in Tahrir (now "Liberation") Square, but traveled fairly extensively throughout the country. Though nothing at that time signaled that an immediate uprising was to come, I can attest to the abject poverty and overwhelmingly challenging economic conditions facing so many of the people who live there. That revolt came is not surprising; that it came so quickly is.
And there is little doubt that it will spread rapidly throughout the Middle East, for good or for ill.
It strikes me that the conditions which facilitated the uprising in Egypt are not only present throughout the Arab world, but in Europe and the United States as well: a large population of young people; a spirit of discontent; and the widespread availability of social media.
In the U.K., this recently resulted in protests over rising tuition costs, long subsidized by the government. Not exactly the throwing off of authoritarian rule, but at least there was passion.
But therein lies the question: what will young people in our day choose to be discontent about, and what will they be prepared to do about it? Will they see their one and only life affect political, social or, dare we dream it, spiritual change?
The word that was shouted throughout Egypt was "Kefaya!", an Egyptian Arabic word (slang, actually) that means "enough." As Erich Bridges has noted, while this is the unofficial name of a grass-roots political reform movement in Egypt, "the word has taken on a far wider and deeper meaning in recent days.
"It has become a cry of anger, of despair -- and of determination. Young people in the region have had enough of being ignored. Enough of being abused. Enough of being silenced. Enough of being forgotten. Enough of being left behind as the rest of the world rushes ahead."
So what are Christians of this generation willing to say "enough" to?
Will the discontent that runs so freely among today's youth find focus on something other than personal fulfillment, or mere quality of life?
In 1979 The Clash released a double-album titled "London Calling." The title alluded to the BBC World Service's station identification during World War II to occupied countries: "This is London calling…"
Well, this is "Cairo Calling."
It will be interesting to see who, particularly among young Christ followers, will listen.
James Emery White
Erich Bridges, "Youth in Egypt, elsewhere cry, ‘Enough!'", February 10, 2011, Baptist Press, online at http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=34632.