As we have lived in Cairo, we have appreciated the help of many who have taught us the local scene, culture, and political and religious realities. As we approach three years in country, then, it is rewarding to be able to share some of our insights with others who are writing about Egypt.
Freely you have received, freely give.
Of course, if we pat ourselves on the back for commitment to this principle, we violate others by the internet equivalent of standing in the street corners and issuing praise to self.
Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is linking to.
So be it: I hope the following links are helpful in putting forward our opinion on some recent events, as well as introducing the works of others who also are doing their best to make sense of Egypt, write accurately, and hopefully serve her.
Eunice Cunha is a Portuguese researcher in the United States, and inquired recently about the position of Copts in Egypt in light of current circumstances. Here is an excerpt, which she posted on her blog:
Amador Square (AS):
Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, Copts were there, at Tahrir Square, demanding the ousting of Mubarak’s regime. What has changed for Copts, a year later?
Jayson Casper (JS):
A couple clarifications, first. Though the Muslim Brotherhood was not there officially when the revolution began, many of their youth were. Furthermore they were there officially after January 28.
Similarly, the Coptic Orthodox Church was not there in the beginning, or afterwards, though Christians did contribute from the earliest days. Christian activists I know, however, lament that their fellow believers were so few.
But you refer to the changing euphoria that Copts had following the revolution. Simply, they were dealt a huge blow by the military in the events of Maspero, and the other powers which emerged are mainly Islamist. I don’t think Copts want to go back to the old regime – they recognize the limitations and false freedoms of Mubarak. But they would not mind a reformed continuation of what was, though this creates a dissonance that mutes overt support for the revolution.
Please click here to continue reading at her blog, Amador Square, which explores the connection between Tahrir and Portugal’s own revolutionary history.
A little while before that, I was able to assist in an article exploring the relationship between the Orthodox and Evangelical Church in Egypt, especially in light of numerous but mostly non-official defections to the latter since the revolution. The author, Sarah Carr, is my superior in all things Egypt, but given the subject I was able to provide some perspective, and a quote. Here is an excerpt from the article in Egypt Independent:
There has also been a slight change in relations between the Coptic Orthodox and Protestant churches, with a joint prayer session held in the Saint Samaan Church in Manshiyet Nasser.
“It was a bit strange and out of context that the late Pope Shenouda welcomed that event, after demonizing similar events before and warning “his children” against participating in such events. Maybe it is a sign of a change? Maybe it is politics,” Zekri wonders.
Casper suggests that this unity is a natural reaction to the Islamist resurgence and that the church “can’t stand against the tide of a more inclusive Christianity. The trend is towards saying, ‘we’re all Christians.’”
Still earlier, I had the chance to introduce Avi Asher-Shapiro to a young Coptic activist. Avi is a Fullbright scholar who was researching Coptic issues, which resulted in the following article from the Carnegie Endowment, from which an excerpt is given:
Above all, Maspero demonstrated that, even in the face of explicit violence, the church’s hierarchy is not yet willing to break with the SCAF. Many bishops are jockeying to replace the aging Shenouda (rumored to be very ill), and few would risk losing the military’s support in a future bid for the papacy.
But the church is underestimating the damage these SCAF ties are inflicting on its relationship with its young membership. As Coptic activists become increasingly defiant, the church may find it impossible to contain its adherents. According to Ramy Kamal, the best way forward is for the church to withdraw from political maneuverings and salvage its spiritual role. Or, as he told me: “We must save the Church from itself.”
Finally, Johnny and Rebecca Weixler are American filmmakers who visited Egypt to make a documentary about the Arab Spring. Beginning with the Alexandria bombing which unleashed great inter-religious sentiment, they chronicled how ‘One Hand’ became a dominant chant of the revolution. I had the opportunity to introduce them to a few characters who exhibit such sentiment.
Johnny and Rebecca have no article, but their website provides the trailer to their movie, subtitled: The Heroic Struggle for Muslim-Christian Unity in the New Egypt. Please click here to view it.
It has been a privilege to get to know all of the above; may Egypt be better off because of their work.