When Will Protests End?

Protests planned in Egypt June 30 are only the latest in the parade of riots and unrest around the world. When will the underlying causes be solved?

Egypt is again on edge, 2½ years after the Tahrir Square protests helped topple the 30-year authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak. Now, just a year after Mohammed Morsi was democratically elected, he is being threatened with massive protests against his heavy-handed rule. Opposition leaders claim more than 16 million have signed petitions demanding that Morsi step down.

However, Morsi’s supporters in the long-repressed Muslim Brotherhood are also holding counter demonstrations.

Whether these protests lead to terrible violence or army intervention or just fizzle because of protest fatigue, they are only the latest in a groundswell of unrest around the world.

Protests in Egypt

The anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters have called on Egyptians to flood the streets on Sunday, June 30, the first anniversary of Morsi’s election. Fuel shortages are adding to the tensions in the country, with arguments breaking out among those waiting in the long lines.

Opposition leaders accuse Morsi of ignoring the goals of many of the Arab Spring revolutionaries who brought down Mubarak, and consolidating power in the hands of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. The controversial new constitution he pushed through is seen as a step toward making Muslim Brotherhood control of the government permanent.

But even if Morsi’s popularity is only half of what it once was, he still has a large base of supporters willing to take to the streets as well.

Will the army step in? Haaretz reported June 28: “The Egyptian army continued Thursday to deploy troops to secure sensitive locations and strategic sites in Cairo and across the country, positioning armored vehicles and personnel carriers at several spots. Military men made sure to hang posters on the vehicles with reassuring messages for the Egyptian people, such as, ‘The army and the people are one hand.’”

What this weekend will bring only time will tell.

Protests in Turkey

Protests against another popularly elected Islamist government continue in Turkey as well. To much of the world, the conflict that began over redevelopment plans for Gezi Park and Taksim Square can seem hard to understand, but Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s harsh crackdown on the protesters has been heard loud and clear.

The European Union expressed its disapproval and has delayed membership talks by at least four months.

The Guardian reported June 21, “Turkey’s chances of breaking a three-year stalemate and relaunching its bid to join the European Union look like being dashed because of the government’s ruthless response to three weeks of street protests amid worsening friction between Ankara and Berlin.”

Other recent protests

Other recent demonstrations in the news include a “series of massive, nationwide protests that have hit Brazil since June 17. Demonstrators are angered about corruption and poor public services despite a heavy tax burden” (Washington Post).

The Economist magazine highlighted a long list of other protests in its article “The March of Protest,” subtitled: “A wave of anger is sweeping the cities of the world. Politicians beware.” Scenes of recent protests include Indonesia, Bulgaria, Greece and other countries in the eurozone, India, China, Russia and many “Occupy” groups around the world.

Why so many protests?

Real and perceived injustice, oppression and feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness often precede unrest. General discontent, lack of employment and even boredom can contribute to demonstrations and riots.

The Economist article mentioned many of the factors being blamed for recent riots, including, the fact that “sometimes, as in the riots of young immigrants in Sweden’s suburbs in May and of British youths in 2011, entire groups feel excluded from the prosperity around them.”

Whatever the factors involved, rioting and violence are never justified.

Even when the cause is just, the dangers of the mob mentality are great. A crowd committed to nonviolent protest can still be sparked to respond to aggression in the powder keg environment of a protest. And all the riot-control training in the world can’t prepare law enforcement or military personnel for everything that can go wrong.

Biblical advice

Biblical wisdom tells us to avoid hotheads and the rebellious (Proverbs 22:24-25; 24:21). We are told to foresee danger and avoid it (Proverbs 22:3).

God also tells Christians to obey the governmental leaders, unless they ask us to break God’s law (Romans 13:1-2; Acts 5:29).

However, that doesn’t mean that we should just accept real injustices and ignore oppression. God honors those who “sigh and cry” about the evil in this world (Ezekiel 9:4), and He wants us to pray fervently for the end of this toxic, dysfunctional society (Matthew 6:10).

God hates the evils that men do to each other more than we can know. He is moved by the cries of the oppressed and is angry at the oppressors. And though He is longsuffering, He promises He will act!

When will protests end?

Many peoples have suffered under tyrants and other forms of oppression, and sometimes oppressors later become the oppressed. Many Bible students know the story of God rescuing the enslaved Israelites from Egypt in the Exodus.

But how many know about the time when the Egyptians will cry to God “because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Mighty One and He will deliver them” (Isaiah 19:20)?

The time is coming, and we pray it will come very soon, when Christ—our Deliverer, Savior and King of Kings—will intervene to end all injustice, tyranny and evil. He will save humanity from the brink of destruction (Matthew 24:21-22) and bring a time of true justice and peace (Isaiah 9:7).

Read more about this time of peace and how we can prepare for it in Life, Hope & Truth articles on the “Kingdom of God.”

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine, the Daily Bible Verse Blog and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter (including World Watch Weekly). He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who have the privilege of answering questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

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