Dear Egyptian Christians,
This post is for you.
You are a minority. You are Christian. You are Egyptian. And you are afraid.
This post is not to tell you that you are silly for being afraid, nor is it to tell you that what you are afraid of doesn’t exist. This post is to tell you two things. 1) You need to know yourselves a bit better than you do right now and 2) stop being afraid.
Persecution is a serious issue here in Egypt and it has truly haunted many Christians for their whole lives. Over the years attacks against Christians have increased. Naturally there is this constant fear that this reality can worsen and lead to more violence and hatred. It sometimes seems to be easier to try and keep what we had before and not let things get worse. After the 18 days of protests, there have already been brutal attacks and shootings and ears cut off by some of the radicals and it’s a threat, a real threat. I know that I do not need to list out more specific examples. Don’t we already know of hundreds of instances of persecution or discrimination throughout our own companies and neighborhoods?
However, I want to point out one little fact. What happened before the revolution is quite different from what happens after. For a simple reason…everything changed during the revolution. The first thing that has changed is the memory we have of being united as Egyptians. Alaa Abd El Fattah, Egyptian blogger said that “Tahrir was a low-tech Utopia, 18 days of perfection.” It really was and we can never and will never forget that. We stood together, protected each other, ate together, slept next to each other on the streets. We were at peace.
After those 18 days, let us also not forget the fact that people are now active both politically and socially in a way that Egypt has not seen in years, if ever. We don’t hear people say “I don’t care” or “It’s not my problem” anymore. People care about their country and even more for each other (at least for now). Those days in Tahrir has trickled into society.
Here is an example of how people have changed. I was driving from work to Maadi and my car ran out of gas in the middle of the Autostrad right at the beginning of Maadi (The guage was busted so don’t judge). Instead of panicking and calling a guy friend crying, I instead turned on my emergency lights and looked around for who would help. Now the gentleman that did end up helping me turned out to be much more than a gentleman. He pushed my car out of the road, went and got me gas and watched the car when I had to go get more, and got his hands all filthy as he poured the gas into the car. Now, you may ask how much money I gave him at the end right? Well, thats when I called a guy friend asking how much I should. However, when I went to give the money, he refused, even though he paid some money himself to help me. He refused to take it. In fact, he had even made sure I had money so that I could get the gas in the first place. This guy wasn’t a BMW boy, nor was he a Wrangler dude…he was just some guy standing on the side of the road. Must I elaborate more? Have we not all seen a change in the way we care about complete strangers?
Thirdly, many people in Egypt now care more about rights, freedom and the minority groups. For example, many normal Muslims, since the January 1st bombings in Alexandria, started becoming more aware of what Christians actually go through and also have joined in Christian protests and supported them in their struggle for rights. I do think that on average most Muslims were not (and some are still not) fully aware of the discrimination and persecution that goes on here in Egypt. This can be attributed to the fact that they have not seen it or experienced it and also because many Christians do not talk about it. However, again, things have changed and since the bombings, all throughout the revolution, and even now, many Muslims have become aware of this reality in Egypt and expressed openly their unity with the Christians.
These things should be motivating factors to get us Christians out onto the streets. Now, some of you may say that you are out and working, and I am happy to hear it. I have friends who are active as well. But they are few. What is keeping the rest away?
It is fear and it is normalcy. We are afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood and we are afraid of the Salafis. We are afraid of becoming like Iran or Iraq or maybe like Saudi Arabia. And since we used to deal with our fear by trying to disappear and keep quiet, we fall back on our old patterns and habits and try to return to normalcy.
Again, I repeat myself, I know this is a generalization. I know many of you are out and active and I am not talking to you.
Here, however, is where I get a bit confused. When a boat leaves dock, you are either on it, or off it. Right? Our ship left dock ages ago and probably before January 25th even happened. So are we on it? Are we going to be actively trying to change our society, like a majority of the population is doing? Or are we going to watch it happen and run behind wondering what is going on?
I want to point out that there are only about 4 million Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Salafis, well we don’t know, but not more than 6 million. Let’s look though at how many Christians there are. Some sources say its only 6% of the population, but others say its up to 20%! Pope Shenouda III in 2008 announced that there were over 12 million Coptic Christians in Egypt, not to mention the other denominations.
Well would you look at that. We have more people than both of the Islamist groups put together. Now, how many actual voters in each population is unclear, but what makes us so much weaker and small? We aren’t organized, we are divided and we like hiding behind our doors. Meanwhile, the MB have just created a football team and are on a daily basis giving lectures and writing and in fact they are everywhere.
Now, I am not an advocate of religious political parties, not at all. So I don’t want to hear that there is some Christian political party starting.
What I want to hear is that Christians as well as all Egyptians are being proactive in their communities and societies around them. That does NOT mean doing things inside your Church by the way. It means doing things OUTSIDE your Church. It means being a citizen and it means being an Egyptian. It means we need to start spending our evenings and weekends not in Church meetings, but in other meetings that are planning social and grassroots movements.
Please hear what I am saying. We must be Egyptians, not Copts. We must be active, not afraid.