6 thoughts on “Egypt: Muslim and Christian human shields”

  1. I don’t pretend to know anything about Egyptian governance over the past 20 years, but… this does not sound like the actions of repressed peoples. If anything, this kind of activity hints at a society whose government allows (and has a long, reliable history of allowing) great freedom of expression and of religion – both of which are generally the first casualties of “new” regimes.

    Can someone more familiar elucidate? Something doesn’t jibe here, and recent reports (and US response) has seemed rather simplistic, given these kinds of facts on the ground.

  2. I’m no expert either, so here’s the US State Dept’s 2010 International Religious Freedom Report section on Egypt: the Mubarak regime doesn’t entirely repress the Coptic minority, but it doesn’t make things easy for them either.

    But that’s the government.

    This Reuters video report of the Eucharist in Tahrir Square today gives some sense of how comfortable the people of the two faiths feel with one another. Sadly, it focuses pretty much only on the “demonstration” aspect of the event — I personally would have liked to have seen the liturgical side covered by the news cameras, too.

  3. Thank you for the additional information, Charles. The video was especially moving: seeing the Cross and the Bible held aloft openly, and a Christian service broadcast with a microphone to all hearers. It gives me a vision to hang a prayer on for the whole region.

  4. Reuters called it a Mass, meaning (I presumed) the Eucharist or Divine Liturgy — I was wondering how they’d handle that outdoors, since (as far as I know) Copts would usually have an ikonostasis, with the mystery of the consecration taking place in the sanctuary, thus hidden from the sight of the congregation. Apparently, though, what is being called a “Mass” wasn’t a Eucharist but a prayer service.

  5. “I personally would have liked to have seen the liturgical side covered by the news cameras, too.”

    Virtually no one in the news media would even know what this means. Their lack of comprehension of religion, what it means, how it functions, how people respond to it, is one of their many inexcusable failures.

  6. The media don’t understand religion in general, and when they discuss religion in the Middle East they tend to draw false parallels between Christianity and Islam. Notions of church/state dichotomy and of clergy who operate in a separate and parallel realm from secular politics come from modern western Christianity and are alien to Islam. It’s possible for Muslims to express tolerance for Christian practice while also assuming that Muslims will rule and will define the parameters of minority behavior. IOW, Egyptian Muslims might tolerate Copts and even the Coptic church but be hostile to political assertiveness by Copts. It may be that there are many liberal Muslims who are ready to treat Christians as political equals, but that’s not the historical pattern, and I would hesitate to bet against the historical pattern without much more evidence of change in Egyptian Muslim public opinion.

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