Hope and Despair in OUR Egypt

15-12-2011 09:06 AM

Rana Rizk

WATANI International
23 January 2011


Amreeka New York:  
I am writing from my New York apartment with immense frustration in response to the deaths and injuries that ensued from the Alexandria Saints Church bombing at the first moments of the 2011 New Year celebration. I was in denial for a few days until I passed by a clothing store a few blocks from where I live in Manhattan and spoke with my friend, a Coptic Christian man from Alexandria. I asked him if his family was ok. He answered, “No!” Were they hurt? He answers, “Yes, seriously injured, one woman lost part of her brain and the other is in grave condition.” It hit me strong and I had to find a way to react. I called my family in Egypt. I was worried since they made a point to go to church on Christmas Eve. My relative told me, “if we don’t go, then no one will go and we cannot stay at home because we are scared.” I admired this active position.

At the Christmas Eve service the priest made special safety announcements. There was a different feel of increased tension and doubt in the air. The priest advised everyone to go home after communion and not linger outside the church chattering as usual. Following the service, as my relative recounted the scene outside the church, “the Christians came out of the church to find Muslim families, men with their wives and children, standing outside in solidarity. If something happens tonight it will have to happen to all of us, Christians and Muslims.” My eyes teared up. I was so touched. This is a rare, perhaps the first, act of solidarity in action, not just words.

My relative spoke to one veiled woman who was standing outside the church with her husband and two sons. He asked the woman’s 15 year- old boy, “do you know why you are here?” His mother solemnly replied, “Yes, he does.”
I salute the courage of the model citizens, Egyptians who believe in a Christian and Muslim Egypt.

Moderates must speak out against fanatics, so that our nation does not become represented by a fundamentalist intolerant minority, or is it? There are many silent moderates who allow intolerance to prevail. For the sake of our country, we must speak out against any violent act of intolerance even if it means denouncing a group that misrepresents our own religion. The state will never grant anyone, Christian or Muslim, their basic rights if civil society members do not treat each other with dignity and respect.

I left Egypt two years ago after losing hope and feeling like a stranger in my own country. The day my Muslim colleague and friend told me, “if you don##t want to live under Sharia law, stated in our constitution, you should leave because whether you like it or not Egypt has and will always be a Muslim nation.” I left, almost defeated. Now however, I have renewed hope and I will not give up on my home, my country, simply because I have none other to call my home. So I am left with no choice other than to continue to fight for the Egypt we should all aspire for, a diverse and rich culture that embraces everyone alike.

I have a B.A. in Legal Studies and an M.A. in International Development.



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