Praying for Peace, News from Egypt …

A good friend in Egypt sends this news …

Well it is a week since the horrific killing of 30 Coptic people in the protest that turned into a riot. Funerals have been held for the dead. What seems to have not been reported in the West is that there were a number of Muslims that were marching in that protest as well. It has been a tense week with fasting and prayers. Each day at noon there have been prayers for peace and tolerance in the Cathedral opposite the apartment (in the Clergy House) where I live here in Cairo.
This has impacted the interviews we have been doing this week with Clergy and Youth Leaders in Zamalek (Cathedral), Old Cairo and Giza – all in Cairo. People are not coming out at night time and particularly females are not being allowed out after dark. There has been an uneasy feeling around the city. The deputy Prime Minister (appointed by the armed forces – SCAF) resigned in protest but his resignation was refused. A number of journalists at the state run television station also spoke out about their shock and dismay at the biased reporting of the riot. Some even resigned.
However this last Friday (the weekend here is Friday and Saturday) there was another protest. Here is a report on it:

Hundreds of Muslims and Copts embarked on a long-lasting and fast-

moving national unity march on Friday, seeking to ease the recently-soured sectarian tensions and protest against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The march, as planned, kicked off at Al-Azhar Mosque after Friday’s prayers. It lasted over five hours, touring downtown and stopping several times as protesters incessantly chanted “Muslim, and Christian, [are] one hand,” among many other unity slogans. De-facto president, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, got the lion’s share of the anti-SCAF chants. Not only did demonstrators lash out at him for last week’s deadly confrontations, but they also accused him of perjury, saying his testimony in the trial of deposed president Hosni Mubarak was false. The most significant stop the march made was at the main Coptic Cathedral in Abasseya neighbourhood, where a huge funeral sermon was held last Monday for the victims of Sunday’s attacks. Near the end of the march, protesters also went to the state television building, Maspero; the site of the battle that saw at least 25 dead, over 300 injured and millions of Egyptians in shock. At this point protesters slammed the government-run media for its “hypocritical coverage” of the incident.

Praying for peace … starting in Christian and Muslim hearts. As a friend of mine says, the dividing line in the Middle East doesn’t run between Christians, Muslims, and Jews … it runs between Christians, Muslims, and Jews who want peace, justice, freedom, and equality for all, and those who want special privileges for their group alone.
Another friend in Egypt writes …

Some of you have asked exactly what has happened. It is truly much more complex than perhaps the Western media often suggests. To be honest, much is still somewhat of a mystery. However, as best as everyone can tell the following account explains what happened. Last Sunday, October 9, a large demonstration in Cairo of up to ten thousand Coptic Christians (the historic indigenous Christians of Egypt, since the time of St. Mark, the gospel writer) was held to protest a church that was burned down in Upper Egypt (southern Egypt). Muslims also joined in the demonstration in solidarity with the Christians. All was peaceful until some unidentified persons infiltrated the demonstrations with the goal to create unrest. They attacked the military, the army soldiers, who in response fired against the demonstrators and even ran over some of them with their armored vehicles. The tragic result was that over 24 Christians were killed and more than 320 were injured, Muslims and Christians.
Obviously, in addition to this being a heartbreaking occurrence, some fundamental things need to change to prevent sectarian violence and conflict. We are praying that the investigations of this incident be fair and just.
In the midst of this painful time, it has been encouraging to see many Muslims denounce the use of violence against the Christian demonstrators and who proactively are advocating against the discrimination toward Egyptian Christians. This last Friday, thousands of Muslims walked from Al Azhar (the intellectual and spiritual heart of Sunni Islam here in Cairo) to the Coptic Orthodox Church cathedral to stand in solidarity with the Coptic Christians, calling for religious unity.