The Copts and the Egyptian Revolution
My Speech at Saint Egidio Meeting Munich 2011
Panel 5 - 12 Sept. 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’m much honored to be here with you today.
I came from Egypt as a Copt to say how we feel as Copts and as a minority towards our great Egyptian revolution that stunted the world.
First let me say something about my experience with the religious and cultural diversity, I'm a Coptic Orthodox, I was of a protestant mother and an orthodox father, and now I'm a lecturer at the Anglican school of Theology. So I know exactly what it means to live in culture of diversity and I know how and what it means to accept and co-exist with different ideas. I'm also a Freelance journalist.
Now back to the revolution. I can assure you that every single Egyptian despite of his/her religion is very happy that the revolution occurred, it should have happened long time ago.
Starting from 1923 Egypt was a liberal country until the military coup of July 1953 which ended the liberal era and started a volatile era that still exists till today.
The current Copts suffering as a minority started in that volatile era, and affected their life till the moment, also affected their attitude towards the revolution.
I'll discuss three issues in brief to describe the Copts attitude towards the revolution:
First issue is defining the Egyptian revolution
Second issue is the Copts attitude towards and during the revolution
Third issue is the future of the Copts and Egypt
First: Defining the Egyptian Revolution:
I want to quote from Jeff Goodwin (a professor of Sociology at New York University), he gives us this definition of a revolution, he says: "Revolutions entail not only mass mobilization and regime change, but also more or less rapid and fundamental social, economic and cultural change, during or soon after the struggle for state power".
But now, is this what happened in Egypt?
I believe not. What happened in Egypt till now is just throwing away a regime. Till now we haven't built a new one, plus no changes happened in the social, economic and cultural aspects.
We were always talking about the corrupted regime, but deliberately forgetting that the Egyptian society is also corrupted. If we want to eradicate the old system with all its symbols once and forever, we have to start now in liberating the society from the corruption that's bounded to its mind. Because if this revolt will frees us from the system without breaking us free from the societal corruption and the Egyptian mind crisis, the next regime will be worse.
Chaos is what's happening now in Egypt, and chaos is the greatest danger not when it permeates the streets, but when it acquires the minds. I think that now we should together from all the different religions that exists in Egypt make a campaign to save the Egyptian mind from the chaos that haunted and apprehended it from 58 years ago. That will happen only if we'll take care of education and enlightment.
I remember when I was in the demonstrations in Alexandria, someone asked me: when will Nero (i.e. Mubarak) flee from Egypt; I replied the real Nero will flee when the Egyptian mind flees from its Crisis.
The radical religious groups are trying now to control the Egyptian minds, and they are succeeding in this because every religion in Egypt isolated itself from the others. Christians, Baha'is and other minorities have never tried to introduce themselves to the society and so when these radical groups say that the followers of these religions are infidels, people will easily believe them, because these religions are considered unknown and unrevealed to the majority.
I'll discuss this point latter on.
Second: The Copts attitude towards and during the revolution:
First we've to differentiate between the official attitude of the Church leaders and the ordinary Coptic people.
The Coptic attitude towards the revolution came in three stages:
- The first stage was "caution and anticipation"; this attitude started by the 25th of January and took about three days to be changed. On the 25th the leaders of the church were afraid to revolt against the regime because they knew that if the revolution failed the church will suffer the most, and this is a fact. So they warned Christians from joining the demonstrations but some Christians indeed joined the demonstrations and did care about the warning.
- The second stage was "welcoming and participation"; on the 28th when the Copts realized that the revolution is succeeding and whatever the price will be, it will be paid by all the Egyptians, so they rushed to El Tahrir square and joined the rest of the population, not only the ordinary Christians did this but also clergy men and church leaders joined the demonstrators. This stage continued till two weeks after Mubarak stepping down.
- The third stage started two weeks after Mubarak stepping down, and it's the recent attitude: it's "fear and withdrawal". When the radical Islamic groups started to take control and the discriminating radical speech started to rise, attacks against Copts and burning churches started again.
The Copts as Egyptians were very happy when the revolution happened, but then they started to see it like a vapor that is appearing for a little, and then vanishing. Now they are afraid of the coming future, will it be a radical Islamic regime? Or a military one? I believe not only the Copts have these fears but also many Muslims too.
Third: The future:
The future of the minorities in Egypt is very unclear and vague. I mean by minorities not just Copts but also Baha'is, Jews, atheists and some Muslim sects. But in the same time the future of these minorities may lie in their hands. They can change it. As Copts we must say who we're and what're our beliefs, we must become known to the society. The unknown is always frightening, and when we become known to the rest of the society we'll no more be frightening or infidels.
But this must be done with the help of the liberal and moderate Muslims. We have to cooperate together as minorities with the Muslim majority to enlighten the society and teach the people how to accept diversities and coexist with other religions.
Because what really matters is the love, peace and friendship between us all. It's the fact that we’re all Egyptians.
We are dreaming of a modern, secular, liberal and civil country that equates between all people despite of their religion.
We're dreaming of a country where the Egyptian identity is above all other identities because we're all Egyptians.
I believe that religions are based on peace, love and accepting diversities.
The future of Egypt lies in our hands, and as Copts we've to get rid of our isolation and spread our hands to all religions in Egypt specially our fellow Muslims, and they have to help us with introducing our self to the society.
I hope the spirit of this conference and the teachings of St Francis the Assisi inspire us all to start this trip of peace, love, coexisting and cooperation.
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