I remember last year’s reports on the church bombings in Egypt on Palm Sunday. When I heard the news, my blood curdled. I was reminded on Christmas of the harm Salafism causes when I read on Mada Masr about the church attack. I was filled with rage. I was afraid friends and family might have been hurt. It’s as if Islamist terrorist way of celebrating Christmas and Easter was to kill people and bomb churches. I was fed up of hearing from friends and relatives “Don’t worry: the martyrs are in a better place now,” “Heaven needed another angel,” and words from the Coptic Orthodox Pope such as “The Church needs martyrs.” I have no idea as to why heaven has such a great demand for Egyptians.
However, I remembered something else. In Egyptian newspapers and social media, there were mentions of Muslims leaving candles, message of condolences, and flowers in front of Saint George’s church and Saint-Mark’s cathedral after the Palm Sunday attack in 2017. Should this be surprising?
Egyptians Are Brothers
According to Ernest Renan’s What is a Nation?, a nation is not a group of people united by language, creed or ethnicity but a group of people with a shared selective collective memory who want to build a future together. This reminds me of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. On a Friday, Muslim protesters in Tahrir Square stopped to pray. Christian protesters formed a human chain around the Muslims to protect them. The Muslim protesters returned the favour on the following Sunday. Egyptians, regardless of creed are united through their shared experience of over 2,000 years of foreign occupation and about 60 years of dictatorship. But more powerful than that is their desire for a better future.
The will to unite did not start with the Egyptian Revolution of 2011: the sentiment was even present in the first half of the 20th century. Plays such as Hassan, Morqos wa Cohen (Hassan, Mark, and Cohen) and songs by Sayyed Darwish called on Egyptians of all religious backgrounds to unite. Symbols implying similar messages can be seen the Sayyed Darwish biopic and the movie adaptation of Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk. Even though Salafist movements disturbed this unity, it remains.
Egyptians Bonded by Love
Although there are pan-Arabic movements and pan-Islamic movements in Egypt, there are also Egyptian nationalism. This nationalism focuses on secular Egyptian culture and Egypt’s ancient roots. These elements are common to all Egyptians regardless of creed. I’ve met Christian Egyptians and I’ve met Muslim Egyptians; the only difference between them is religion.
Last year, some Christians, in spite of the Palm Sunday attacks, celebrated Easter in the streets because the churches the terrorists attacked were too full. They didn’t care if the churches were damaged and about being attacked again: they wanted to celebrate. When reading about the afore mentioned attack on Christmas, it’s not surprising the man who protected the Christians was Muslim: Egyptians, regardless of creed, care more about each other than terrorists masquerading as pious Muslims.
No Fear for Easter in Egypt
Islamic terrorists may attempt another attack this year but I know Egyptians can handle it: they have lived through so many hardships. When seeing how Egyptians are united by the will for a better future and love for their history, it’s no surprise Egyptians regardless of religion help each other.
Egypt is, as Nicholas Nassim Taleb would say, antifragile: they benefit from shock.
I know that, as I write these words on Good Friday, I can rest assured Egypt will be fine.
I wish you all a very Happy Easter.