Via Abram News:
Although 2011 started tragically, I feel it will be a year of eagerly anticipated change, where Egyptians will stand against sectarianism and unite as one,” Father Rafaeil Sarwat of the Mar-Mina church told Ahram Online. The Coptic priest was commenting on the now widespread call by Muslim intellectuals and activists upon Egyptian Muslims at large to flock to Coptic churches across the country to attend Coptic Christmas Eve mass, to show solidarity with the nation’s Coptic minority, but also to serve as “human shields” against possible attacks by Islamist militants.
Mohamed Abdel Moniem El-Sawy, founder of El-Sawy Culture Wheel was among the promiment Muslim cultural figures who first floated the bold initiative.
“This is it. It is time to change and unite,” asserted journalist Ekram Youssef, another notable sponsor of the intiative, in a telephone interview with Ahram Online. She added that although it is the government’s responsibility to act and find solutions to bring an end to such violations, “it is time for Egyptian citizens to act to revive the true meaning of national unity.”
Following last year’s Coptic Christmas Eve attack on congregants as they left their church in the Upper Egyptian city of Naga Hamady, Youssef created the crescent and cross logo with the slogan “A nation for all” – that was adopted during the past couple of days by many of Egypt’s 4 million Facebook users as their profile picture.
Mariam Yassin, a 24 year old video editor, will take Thursday off to travel to Alexandria to attend the mass at the Two Saints Church. “I am not going as a representative of any religion. I am supporting all those who died as a result of ignorance.”
Yassin’s friend, Mariam Fekry, was killed along with her mother, sister and aunt in the Two Saints Church attack
“I feel great sympathy for her family’s loss, yet I don’t feel that as a Muslim I should apologize on the behalf of murderers.” Yassin added.
On the other hand, Fatima Mostafa, a 40 year old house wife, will join Copts tomorrow to show that Muslims feel their sorrow. “I want to show the world that Islam is a religion of peace and that such attacks are nothing more than a result of poverty, ignorance and oppression.”
While the reasons they cite for doing so may vary, many Egyptian Muslims are rallying around the idea of acting to protect their fellow citizens.
“I know it might not be safe, yet it’s either we live together, or we die together, we are all Egyptians,” Cherine Mohamed, a 50 year old house wife said.
After last year saw an escalation of violence against Iraqi Christians and the breakdown of another round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, it is heartening to see such a tangible display of religious tolerance and communal solidarity in the Middle East. These people are literally putting their lives on the line for the sake of coexistence. It won’t be predator drones that win the war on terror for us. It will be millions more Muslims who make shields of themselves, who put their bodies in between fanatic monomania and civil society.
I only hope that when the symbolism of such noble efforts is not so obvious and theatrical as in this case, we can still recognize and appreciate their nobility.
Of course, none of this is to say Egypt is an ideal model for a progressive society; the nation’s government only banned female genital mutilation three years ago, and some 78-97 percent of living Egyptian women still have to live with the physical and psychic scars. And though technically illegal, one imagines the cultural momentum behind the practice, prevalent in the Nile valley as early as the second century BCE, will take some generations to finally die out.
But even still. It cannot be denied that this life-or-death commitment to religious pluralism is a positive step in one direction.
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