Ok, so as promised I am writing about Christian Egypt.
Where do I start? It’s really complicated. Most Egyptian Christians are Copts who are the indigenous peoples of Egypt (as oppose to Muslims, who are supposedly of mixed Arab ancestry). Yet, they are a clear minority.
And in a country where political Islam is all the rage, emotions for some can run quite deep. In general I try to avoid such occurrences. My name is Bennett and I’m not it…
Nonetheless, as an outsider I will say I am surprised at the kind of cross–religious interaction that goes on… or should I say the lack thereof. I knew about Muslim-Christian tensions in Egypt before I came and wanted to know how there came to be these seemingly deep divisions/ffault lines or if there was something else afoot.
being here for almost nine months, I think it’s safe to say that many Muslims and Christians live in parrallel worlds. I.e. side by side, but not neccessarily together. I remember asking my Egyptian instructor in the States how to wish a Christian Happy Easter or how to give condolences when a loved one has died. He had no idea. Now, I see why.
There are many people who friends with Christians and vice versa. But I have only seen one pair of Muslim-Christian best friends. I think personal interaction though civil, is more limited than what I expected coming from a Sierra Leonean background where cross-religious peaceful co-existence means living with and marrying each other at will.
I am amazed at how many Muslims I talk to and they seem to be oblivious to the underlying reasons behind some Christian’s feelings of resentment, discontent and sincere fear for the future of their community. I am also amazed at how some seem to wear a mask of civility but once they feel at home with me, express these feelings of frustration with their minority status. As a member of a minority community in the US, however, I completely understand the importance of a democracy that not only expresses the will of the majority but also protects the rights of the minority. Only time will tell what the new Egyptian political system has in store.
It leaves me confused, because there is nothing I can do. I pray for the tensions never to roar but I know that that’s not realistic.
At the end of he day, you are dealing with two communities, in circles of each the one thinks the other is an infidel… hard to find middle ground there I guess. And this is kind of scary. I think some Muslims underestimate the hatred for Islam in some Christian circles. I also think some Muslims don’t understand how their comments and actions can make some Christians feel unwelcomed in their own country.
So to sum it up, Christian-Muslim tension is real. But, it’s not as bad as it might seem in the media. You have some pretty hard core reactionary people on both sides but in the end the vast majority of folk aren’t super radical in their thinking. … or so I think.
But enough about the problems.