Six adults and two children were evacuated August 16 from the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Nile Union Academy in Cairo ahead of nearby protest marches.
The evacuation of the volunteers was strictly precautionary, local church leaders said. The group is currently staying in Beirut, Lebanon, on the campus of the church’s Middle East University.
“We knew there were a couple of major demonstrations planned and decided to evacuate [the volunteers] in case these marches created a dangerous situation,” said Llewellyn Edwards, president of the Adventist Church in Egypt and Sudan.
The marches, however, did not threaten the safety of the academy or the surrounding area. When protesters passed the nearby Adventist Church in Cairo, Edwards said local Muslims locked arms and surrounded the property to protect it from attack. The gesture, he said, demonstrated continued solidarity among Egyptians, despite growing turmoil in the country.
Egypt’s military-backed government is cracking down on protesters loyal to former President Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted in July. Extremists have targeted Coptic Christians and other Protestants in the country in recent weeks, burning churches, homes and businesses.
The United States’ Department of State released a warning last week urging U.S. citizens living in Egypt to depart immediately due to “continuing political and social unrest.” Members of the Crisis Anticipation and Management Committee at Adventist world church headquarters met to discuss the situation and concurred.
The volunteers had arrived at Nile Union Academy about a month ahead of the autumn semester.
Edwards is hopeful that the area surrounding church property in Cairo will remain safe. “There are local Muslims here who contact the academy staff each day to assure them of their safety,” Edwards said.