Day 14 - Cairo/Shopra - Christians/Muslims: United - February 6, 2012

For decades now, the powers governing Egypt have been trying to create tensions between the various religious communities (Western media also contribute actively to raising tension by broadcasting clashes between the Islamic and Christian communities, while not talking enough about the good relationships in place). So, how about a return to tolerance and sense of community, as found in the heart of the Shopra quarter (6 million inhabitants) which concentrates the largest community of Copts (around 70%) living peacefully alongside Muslims (around 30%) with mutual respect for their neighbor’s religion.

In this photo you can see the religious symbols of the two communities - in the center a luminous inscription devoted to the Prophet Mohammed, and just above, a representation of the Virgin Mary.

Having lived in this neighborhood in the home of a Muslim family for several days now, I can vouchsafe just how excellently the two communities get on together, treating each other as equals, all brother Egyptians. In the streets you can see numerous booths where Muslims and Christians mingle – to the point where one no longer pays any attention to the faith of the person opposite, but rather to his human qualities.

Let’s remember that, during the 2011 revolution, while chaos reigned once police had left the streets to the mercy of bandits, the population of Shopra rose brilliantly to the occasion, and were able to work together to protect shops, homes and places of worship.

Even so, the Egyptian Coptic community remains under palpable tension (in the last 12 months, I have never had to be as ready to show my credentials as when approaching Copts). Also, there is no doubt that to be Coptic in Egypt is not easy. With a lack of involvement from the government, effectively each district is self-managed by its residents according to clearly defined local rules, and the Shopra quarter is living proof that peaceful co-existence between the two communities is possible. Tahrir Square was another inspiring witness of such cooperation.

Some humble advice to finish – when the religious conflicts of Egypt reach you in the West, ask yourself some questions: who benefits from these confrontations?  Who commands them?


Photo & text by Gaël Favari

(Photo © Gaël Favari for The Global Journal)


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