The Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, Rector of St. John's Church-Maadi, Cairo, Egypt and interfaith advocate writes about last week's events in Cairo with its sectarian strife and resulting deaths. Received via email.
Hello from Cairo
This last week here has been a heavy one for Egypt, as it began with sectarian strife that resulted in tragedy. We have heard from many of you asking about our safety. We are all fine and treasure your concerns and prayers. Of course our hearts and prayers go out to all the families and friends of those that lost their lives. And our prayers continue for Egypt and its future.
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.
In the wake of the recent tragic sectarian conflicts in Egypt, later this week we begin hosting an exhibition, titled THE ETERNAL EYE, that reflects a desire to see the establishment of a new Egyptian society that inherently respects and honors religious diversity…Christians and Muslims.
See the official Press Release (pdf format) for this upcoming contemporary Coptic icon exhibition hosted at our church, St. John’s Church-Maadi, Cairo. THE ETERNAL EYE will exhibit over fifty commissioned Coptic icons by the world renowned Coptic Christian iconographer (icon artist), Magdy William. The exhibition will be officially opened this coming Thursday, October 20 at 7 PM by Bishop Daniel, the Bishop of Maadi and Assistant to His Holiness Shenouda III, the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, with the artist Magdy William present. Please see the exhibition's website here
The Coptic Orthodox Church, the historic indigenous Christian presence in Egypt (up to 10% of the population), plays a critical role in enabling all Christians and Muslims to coexist in harmony. This Coptic icon exhibition seeks to embraces the new spirit of ecumenical solidarity that was so beautifully illustrated during the Egyptian revolution earlier this year.
The Exhibition will run from Oct 20-26th, and 20% of all sales go to Egyptian charities assisting the poor. During the exhibition we will have some special presentations as well.
Thank you so much for your prayers for this upcoming ministry initiative that seeks to not only encourage the Coptic Christians here, but also highlight their unique role in Egypt’s future.
We treasure your ongoing prayers, support and interest. Thanks again for all your emails as well.
Rev. Canon Paul-Gordon Chandler
Rector, St. John's Church-Maadi