The Floating Interfaith Bridges to Sinai

Buried in an Ahram Online story about Egypt’s efforts to develop the restless northern Sinai region is a testament to the nation’s insistence on shared identity.

Terrorism in the region has killed Muslim and Christian alike. Part of the problem, analysts say, is that Sinai has been long neglected.

Isolated from the Egyptian mainland, tribal society has been penetrated by militants who draw on a sense of frustration with the state.

President Sisi has promised “utmost force” to eliminate terrorism. But he also recently inaugurated projects to address the economic conditions. These include pathways across and below the Suez Canal, to better link with the rest of Egypt.

Two of which bear special names.

El-Sisi also inaugurated two floating bridges in Ismailia and Qantara, which are named after Ahmed El-Mansi and Abanoub Gerges; two army personnel who were killed in Sinai in the line of duty in recent years.

As every Egyptian knows, Ahmed is a Muslim name, and Abanoub is Christian.

Dozens of security personnel have been killed fighting terrorism. I wrote recently of how casualties cross religious lines.

But to commemorate an bridge connecting Sinai to the mainland, Egypt connects its martyrs from each faith.

The nation has a long way to go to defeat sectarianism, and many may look cynically at a bridge when a church gets ransacked. Just this week a mob attacked in offense of a rumor that a nondescript, not-yet-licensed church would add a bell.

Do not unduly laud Egypt over the name commemoration; it is a far simpler task than civic education.

But neither underestimate its symbolism. Egypt would be much poorer without it.

Video of the opening of both bridges, issued by the Suez Canal Authority (Arabic only). The man on the right is from Bir al-Abd, the Sinai village that suffered the mosque attack, and interrupts the proceedings to say he hopes this accomplishment will help the blood to dry.

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