I would like to start at the end of this tragedy by asking, Where do we go from here? Answering this question should be the focus of our attention and energy. The fact that so many Muslims showed up to Christmas mass on the eve of January 7 was touching. The fact that so many young Egyptians are now donning the crescent with the cross as a symbolic gesture of solidarity is applaudable. The fact that social media is filled with condolences, poetry and individual stories of friendships between Egyptians regardless of their religion was a reminder that as individuals, we don’t see one another as adversaries.
That said, not even a dozen songs about how united Egyptians are will show the way for us to move forward together. We have become divided into two camps — us and them. It’s not the way I see it — my best friend Hedi and I will always be in the same camp, despite our different religions. But all the patriotic songs we can sing are not offering us any answers.
The fact still remains that an integral part of Egyptian society has been singled out because of their religion. It would be naïve to see the events of January 1 as an isolated event that is having a strong impact just because it generated fear. I would dare say that — for many Christians — this attack is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. It is the final indicator of how far certain individuals are willing to go to drive a wedge between one Egyptian and another.
The thing is, we as Egyptians tend to have a short attention span. Although there was no shortage of individuals condemning the attacks and no shortage of unity concerts at the beginning of January, I would dare say that we are already distracted by the plethora of events that unfolded throughout the rest of the month. And once these distractions disappear, we will go back to where we started – us versus them.
In my mind, there is no point putting icing on a cracked cake. The best solution is to re-bake that cake, without skimping on any of the ingredients so that it can withstand the variables that could break it.
Instead, the first step towards answering the question of where do we go from here is to honestly and openly acknowledge that we have a problem. Just like addicts need to admit their addiction for their treatment to begin, we need to do the same for our nation to heal. Then we need to take the painful steps — and they will be painful — to ensure that all Egyptians feel safe in their country.
This will require strong cooperation between government, non-government organizations, religious institutions and individuals. Everything needs to be addressed from policies on building churches to revamping educational curricula to focusing on educating individuals about the similarities of Islam and Christianity (as opposed to the differences). A complete and public overhaul is needed for us to move forward long after the events in Alexandriaare forgotten.
For once, we need to go back to the way we used to be. This is not about telling people to not get involved in church activities nor is it about telling people not to pray. It is about openly respecting the other and accepting them as part of what Egypt truly is. This is the best way for us to turn the loss of lives that has marred the start of 2011 into a turning point for the nation.
|T he start of 2011 has left a very bitter taste in my mouth – one that I think will be hard to undo. I will not recount the events of that fateful day in Alexandria that cost 24 people their lives, as I’m sure most peoplae have heard them in detail. I am not even going to dwell on why — the question that has lingered in the air since the attacks of January 1, 2011. I have come to accept that some questions will never be answered to my satisfaction. Even though the government has arrested the members of the alleged group behind the attacks, and even if they are found guilty and publicly hanged, it will not change the fact that two dozen individuals left their homes that night and simply didn’t return.