Perspective: Should Christians sign petition for release of 529 Brotherhood members sentenced to death?

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie shouts slogans from the defendant's cage during his trial with other leaders of the Brotherhood in a courtroom in Cairo December 11, 2013. (PHOTO: Reuters/Stringer)
Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie shouts slogans from the defendant’s cage during his trial with other leaders of the Brotherhood in a courtroom in Cairo December 11, 2013.
(PHOTO: Reuters/Stringer)

[notice]An INcontext Ministries perspective on the Avaaz petition against the controversial Muslim Brotherhood death sentences. INcontext urges people to consider the full situation behind the sentencing, and the objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood, before ‘voicing’ their support.[/notice]

REUTERS reports: On Monday, March 24, 2014, an Egyptian court sentenced 529 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to death for murder and other offences in a sharp escalation of a crackdown on the movement that is likely to fuel instability.

Defence lawyers called the sentence the biggest mass death sentence handed out in Egypt’s modern history.

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Turmoil has deepened since the army overthrew Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, in July.

Human rights groups said Monday’s verdict suggested the authorities intended to tighten their squeeze on the opposition. The US State Department said it was shocked by the death sentences. State television reported the sentences without comment. A government spokesman did not immediately respond to calls and several government officials said they could not comment on judicial matters.

“The court has decided to sentence to death 529 defendants, and 16 were acquitted,” defense lawyer Ahmed al-Sharif told Reuters. The condemned men can appeal against the ruling.

Most of the defendants at Monday’s hearing were detained and charged with carrying out attacks during clashes that erupted in the southern province of Minya after the forced dispersal of two Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo
on August 14.

Lawyers have predicted that the mass death-penalty sentence will be overturned, but pointed out that the harshness of the ruling reflects the Muslim Brotherhood crackdown Egypt has undertaken since the fall of Morsi. Some 16 000 people, including most of the Brotherhood’s leadership, have been arrested in the crackdown.

Reuters noted that Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders are still awaiting trial on various charges related to destabilizing the country.

The Avaaz petition
On Tuesday, March 25, the day after the sentencing, an appeal was made by Avaaz for people to sign a petition condemning the “provocative ruling… and ensure that these 529 lives are saved”.

Avaaz – meaning “voice” in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages – launched in 2007 with a mission to “organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want”. It is one of the world’s largest and most powerful online activist networks and encourages millions of people to take action on global, regional and national issues, from corruption and poverty to conflict and climate change. Their model of internet organising is intended to allow thousands of individuals to combine into a powerful collective force.

In their appeal, Avaaz refers to the sentence as “a kangaroo court” where the 529 are accused of rioting and killing one police officer. Claims are made that the “military government is using the firing squad to wipe out the political opposition” and that “if the world does not speak up against this persecution of political Islam, the consequences for Egypt and the world are beyond dangerous”.

Here is their appeal for people to sign the “urgent petition to stop state-sponsored murder”:

In an email sent out to promote the petition, Avaaz makes four heavy statements: they say that “the future of democracy is crumbling in Egypt”, that there could be “an eerie lull before a likely terrifying storm of violent retaliation”, that “Egypt is at a critical crossroads”, and that “what happens next could affect us all”.

But consider these from a different angle, in light of the ‘big picture’ situation in Egypt:

  •  “the future of democracy is crumbling” – yes, democracy may be at threat under the current military rule, but under the leadership of the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, any hopes of democracy following the first round of protests swiftly fell away as they pursued an openly Islamic agenda
  • there could be a “storm of violent retaliation” – yes, the Brotherhood supporters are likely to violently retaliate, but the current charges brought against the Brotherhood supporters are due to their previous ‘violent retaliation’
  • “Egypt is at a critical crossroads” – yes, this is true for all Egyptian nationals and has been true since the start of the Arab Spring, but is supporting the Brotherhood a good move?
  • “what happens next could affect us all” – yes, Egypt is a critical nation on a global level, and the Church needs to carefully consider a godly response

From a Christian perspective, we never condone killing in any form nor do we support the sentencing, but it is important to consider the truth behind this mass sentence and the messages given out by Avaas. The sentence is NOT, as Avaaz claims, a response to the murder of one policeman or because of political protests. During the past 13 months, the Muslim Brotherhood launched nation-wide attacks on government and Christian sites, and in more than 107 reported attacks, 299 people were killed and 805 injured (for full list of attacks, see below). The Brotherhood has been responsible for the deaths of many Christians and the destruction of more than 80 churches over the past year. Their ultimate goal as stated in their manifesto is ‘Jihad’ and the implementation of the Shariah Law in Egypt. Yes, this sentencing is tragic and will have severe consequences throughout the Muslim world, but the Brotherhood is not the ‘innocent victim’ as they are now portrayed to be. They are perpetrators of violence and remain a national threat to the security in Egypt.

For a deeper look into the heart of the Muslim Brotherhood view the following clip on YOUTUBE:

The article written by Avaaz in their appeal for signatures is very one-sided, emotionally manipulative, and does not reflect the true situation in Egypt. As reported previously, the majority of the population support Field Marshal Abdel el-Sisi who played the leading role in ousting Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. This was not a coup in the traditional understanding, but followed mass protests against Morsi and his government by millions of Egyptians.

How should the Church respond to this appeal for signatures on a petition?

Ultimately, our response should be to pray for the souls of the 529 sentenced people. They deserve the right to know that there is a Saviour who died so they can know God as Father and Redeemer. It will be a great tragedy if so many people lose their lives in their quest to fight for their god, without knowing the Truth of Christ.

At INcontext, we believe that signing the petition will NOT help to change or improve the situation in Egypt. Our petitions should rather take the form of prayers – for those sentenced, for the Christians in Egypt, and for the future of this nation. Expressing solidarity with radical Islam strengthens their quest for global acknowledgment and gives them a firmer platform to oppress Christianity in Egypt. This petition will not do much to help the case of the 529 sentenced Egyptians, but it will ultimately validate the cause of radical Islam as they seek to continue their acts of terror. What these 529 people need is not the recognition of Christians, but rather our intercession.


  1. Margaret Ferguson

    This is a real confirmation to me as i receive the Avaaz petitions and in the case of this one I was uneasy. I have visited Egypt many times as I have an Egyptian friend now living in UK who goes back to my schooldays in UK – for the first time I wrote to Avaaz using my knowledge and said that we should not ‘oversimplify’ the situation – I was concerned like yourselves about some of the statements. I pointed out that my educated friend of a Moslem family and her Egyptian contacts were most concerned when the Moslem Brotherhood took over and sensed that this was going to be the beginning of serious trouble. And so it has proved to be.My comment would be thatradical or undamentalist Islam is the antithesis of democracy though we should not see democracy as a perfect political science It is a man made political system and therefore has its intrinsic weaknesses.

  2. Love thy neighbour as yourself

    I cant believe you are attempting to justify the murder of these people. Whatever their religion, they are human beings and precious to god. Over 1000 pro-democracy protesters and brotherhood members have been killed by the military government since August 2013, many of them women and children. The video evidence and testimony of journalists confirm that these protesters were unarmed. Thousands of people have been arrested since August, including journalists, human-rights activists and pro-democracy supporters, this is nothing more than systematic persecution of all opposition to the government.

    Whatever our personal opinions of the brotherhood, all life is sacred and we must oppose this ridiculous sentence to demonstrate our commitment to human rights and the sanctity of life.

  3. Hugh G Wetmore

    I had already signed the Avaaz petition re the mass death penalties, when I read In Context’s argument against doing this. I had taken into account that my support for the petition may be construed as a pro-Muslim Brotherhood voice. It is definitely not – I am totally against Muslim fundamentalists, and the MB have messed up badly during their short term in power. But I am heartily PRO-JUSTICE, because our God is a just God who has revealed Himself as PRO-JUSTICE. There is no way that God can regard this mass death sentence, taken after only a short (mock) trial, as Just. We must not do evil that good may result. The end does not justify the means. While I respect the strategic reasons for not signing the Avaaz petition, nevertheless because I am Pro-Justice and Anti-Injustice, my conscience before God is at peace for having signed. And we pray, pray, pray for every nation in trouble.