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Current Events

Should Christians Join Muslims in Breaking Ramadan’s Daily Fast?

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on June 22, 2017.

St. Andrews Iftar

For most American Christians, Ramadan is a novelty; something heard of, but rarely seen. For Middle Eastern Christians, it is everywhere.

For some, it is an annoyance. The month-long fast from sunrise to sunset can make for a cranky Muslim neighbor. Productivity tends to slow. Religiosity tends to rise.

But for other believers, it is an opportunity.

“The Evangelical Church of Maadi wishes all Egyptians a generous Ramadan,” proclaimed the flowery banner hung in the southern Cairo suburb. Such signage is not uncommon (and Muslims also display Merry Christmas wishes for Christians). But saluting “all Egyptians” is a statement.

“I want our brother Muslims to feel that we are one [as Egyptians], and it will make him happy in his heart,” said pastor Naseem Fadi. “We both celebrate Ramadan.”

Beside the need to have good relations with Muslims, Fadi also emphasized his biblical obligations. “Our faith tells us to love everyone,” he said. “And when we reach out to others, we teach them about ourselves.”

Across the Middle East, Christians join in the festive spirit—often by hosting an iftar, the traditional fast-breaking dinner…

Please click here to continue reading at Christianity Today.

 

 

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Excerpts

Muslims are not Islam is not Muslims

Muslims Not Islam
(from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=II42IpzskRI)

From an article at the Zwemer Center, written by a philosopher fed up with popular coverage of Muslim issues:

One philosophical distinction that may help navigate this discussion is between essentialism and nominalism.

Don’t stop reading, he makes it simpler, distinguishing between Islamic religiosity and Muslim religiosity. Ok, that still sounds complicated, but here is the test to see if a pundit weighs forth well on Islam:

  1. Give an account of what the authoritative texts seem to say about a given issue. Quote them as they are without resorting to interpretation.

  2. Describe the various interpretations offered by individual Muslims and groups of Muslims through time.

Failing to take step #1 results in ignoring the authoritative primary sources of authority for Muslims. Failing to take step #2 results in ignoring the history of interpretation of those primary sources of authority and the rich diversity among Muslims on issues.

Still hard for the non-specialist? Yes, I presume so. So here are the crib notes on how each side of the US media spectrum fails (with a special shout-out to you-can-guess-who):

Failing to take step #1 results in understanding Muslim thought as a mere form of individual or cultural relativism, which it isn’t. Now when MSNBC ignores step #1, you can fault them.

Failing to take step #2 results in forming gross generalizations that perpetuate ignorance and prejudice. Now when FOX News or Donald Trump ignore step #2, you can fault them.

Actually, both MSNBC and FOX News fail on both counts, as do many, if not most, of our politicians.

Allow me to take the issue from media analysis to personal kindness and broadminded generosity. Grant Muslims the dignity of belonging to an ancient tradition they strive to navigate in diverse ways. And grant Islam the dignity of diverse followers who cannot be reduced to a single interpretation.

Criticize both freely, as necessary. But do not reduce one to the other. Our identities are true, but they do not define us. Our religions posit truth, but we do not define them. This is as true of Muslims as anyone else.

Should this last thought grow too philosophical, the author reminds us even the professional ones know how to make fun of themselves:

If the distinction doesn’t help you, then chalk it up to another example of confusion about what a philosopher does and still one more example of wondering why anyone in the world would want to do what we do.

Have a wonderful day, once you have set forth the necessary and sufficient conditions for what it means to ‘have a day’ and what could possibly be the conditions for it to be ‘wonderful’.

Smile, but take his words seriously. America, hopefully in correctable ignorance, is taking a dangerous path.

 

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Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

Family House Committee Work

Family House Committees

The Egyptian Family House is an institution created to preserve and promote religious unity between the nation’s Muslims and Christians. Its mandate includes both advising the government on proper policy and encouraging the grassroots by multiplying branches throughout the country.

I have written previously on its general structure. Recently with Arab West Report I had the opportunity to publish summaries of its committee work, which I will excerpt below. Please click on the link in each section to read the full article.

The Family Culture Committee (from AWR):

But it was the work of the family culture committee in the governorates that was most impressive. Ghālib was meeting with representatives of the family culture committees from the various cities which have created Family House branches.

In only three months, five regional branches had conducted four seminars each. The majority of these were not in the larger population areas, but in the villages, even in open squares. They were giving their reports, telling also of at least two incidents of sectarian conflict in Mallawi and Luxor where committee members were able to recruit Family House affiliated religious leaders to reconcile feuding families. There were also more mundane examples where peace was achieved within single families—parents with children, husband with wife.

The Emergency Committee (from the same article):

It consists of five Muslims, all associated with the Azhar, and five Christians, two from the Orthodox Church and one each from the Anglicans, Catholics, and Protestants. Two of these Christians are retired policemen, able to help facilitate relations with security when trouble arises. Azhar members, meanwhile, ensure religious institution cooperation.

The committee activates when trouble arises, and Jirjis and his team have intervened to quell sectarian conflicts in Aswan, Minya, Mallawi, Deir Mawas, Hurghada, and Jabl al-Tayr. Details of the work can be sensitive and are often to be off the record. But by engaging trusted people the committee is able to research the true report of what took place, from which they can issue recommendations. At times, though, a security solution takes priority.

Sometimes the dispute involves conversion from one religion to another. Other times it is over church building. In all cases the committee goes to the source. Have official conversion papers been issued by the Azhar? Has security given written license to the church? Media reporting can often give conflicting opinions, but engaged with officials at the highest levels, the committee is usually able to make a sound determination.

The Media Committee (from AWR):

These values are promoted by the Family House in a general way, and having priests and sheikhs work together is important. But what relation does this have with the media committee?

Our committee must shine the light on this work. If we do this, it will become a pattern for other media to follow. What we are waiting for is it to be stimulated.

What about the website? It is laid out well but seems underdeveloped.

It is still experimental. We want to use it to cover events, but actual accomplishments are not yet that many. The website is somewhat empty, and I have an appointment with Dr. Matanī to select two from our media center [of the church] to work on it. But centralized organizations can be slow.

In our media center we have press releases and our website is active because it has someone dedicated to it. The Family House media committee could stand also to be decentralized a bit. But first we must meet, then take a decision, and so on.

Dr. Matanī and I must press on the other committees to be active and give us the news of what they do.

What will you do when you begin to receive reports?

My idea is that in highlighting the positive values we want society to see, we do more than just put it on the website. We should make something professional and then give it directly to media outlets and satellite channels. But it is clear the financial resources are not yet allocated sufficiently for something like this.

The Education Committee (from AWR)

The idea of the Family House is that we are a family, all together. But how can we live together when each one is raised in an incorrect way? We have witnessed this, and in the education committee we are trying to do something about it.

The first problem is that there are no teachers of religious education, whether Muslim or Christian. The teacher of Islamic religion is often the Arabic teacher. And the teacher of Christian religion, almost anyone can become a school employee no matter their weak qualifications.

So the problem is that they teach religion, but not religious education?

As you said, the subject is religious education, and it should be education, but most of it is just religion. There is no prepared cadre of religious education teachers in the ministry. We are asking the Ministry of Education to create such teachers, both Muslim and Christian.

And the religious classes should remain separate?

Yes, even though there is a wide shared space. I was responsible for the national standards in education committee for the cabinet as concerns religious education, and we sat with the committee in the ministry responsible for Islamic education. We discussed concentrating on our shared items and put aside areas of difference like doctrine. But concerning things like relationships, civilization, and contemporary issues like cloning, for example, let us find the common ground in the two religions.

Values are also shared around the world, even in places that do not have religion. Security, cleanliness, order – these are represented in verses from both the Quran and the Bible.

So do you want to substitute doctrine and in its place put values within the religious education curriculum?

Religious education should teach the spirit of Islam to Muslims and the spirit of Christianity to Christians. The goal is to give the right practices in life. How do you interact with the other? How do you interact with someone who is different than you? This is the educational component we are looking for, from within religion.

We are a religious country, whether Muslims or Christians, and it was this way from the age of the Pharaohs. We live, we eat, we die, and we will be held accountable. This is a constitutional part of the Egyptian character, for us to fear God. Even the thief, before he steals, will say, ‘God protect me.’ From deep within us, religion is important.

So we cannot remove the essence of religion from the schools. Not everyone will go to mosque or the church. We have to take the opportunity in schools to teach it. But the new idea, and it has actually happened, is to have a new book simply entitled, ‘Values’. It takes the common values from Islam and Christianity and teaches them to everyone, in the same classroom.

So this is a new book for a new course? Where will it be taught?

It is a course titled ‘Values’ for all class levels. It will not be tested, but will be taught during activities, such as when the school takes a special excursion to camp, or have a seminar, for example. We have prepared it for the elementary, and will complete it for the other levels. It has been approved by the pope, the grand sheikh of the Azhar, and the minister of education, who have all written introductions. I believe it will be used starting next year.

This, then, will be offered alongside the regular religious education classes?

The regular religious education books will continue to be used, but we are taking these books – along with the Arabic and social studies books – and will try to remove those elements which injure or harm the religious other.

In the days when Fathī Sarūr was the minister of education, there was an elementary book issued and its first lesson was, ‘I am a Muslim’. So what of the Christian student? The minister became aware and had it removed, but things of this manner remain. Things that call Copts ‘infidels’, for example.

This exists in the curriculum?

It was. But this is present in verses of the Qur’an. So if it is included for memorization in the Arabic class, the Coptic student will be harmed. Our committee is taking all the curriculum books to study them, but the ministry has also begun to study this to make sure they are removed. Last year we witnessed this, but we are continuing our review.

As a committee we can only issue recommendations, but there is a response from the ministry. There is a very good relationship between us.

Please click on the links above for the full articles, at Arab West Report.

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Middle East Other Published Articles

The Egyptian Family House: Muslims and Christians, Holding Hands

Imam-Priest 1

Of all the slogans of the Egyptian revolution, ‘One Hand’ was among the most popular. At various times it was shouted by the thousands to indicate the unity of Muslims and Christians, or the unity of the people and the army, or more recently in the fight against terrorism.

But along this progression the utopian unity of Tahrir Square has faded. It has been challenged by political struggles and sectarian rhetoric, which have at times intermixed.

Perhaps, then, in recognition of the dual truths of religious unity and diversity, Bishop Mouneer Hanna of the Anglican diocese of Egypt opened the final session of the 2014 Imam-Priest Exchange with a different hand analogy.

‘Let us hold hands together,’ he said, ‘for the sake of Egypt.’

The Imam-Priest Exchange is one of the most dynamic projects of the Egyptian Family House, an entity created in 2011 by the Azhar and Coptic Orthodox Church. The Protestant and Catholic denominations are also vital participants, and the Anglican Church has taken the lead in training religious leaders in dialogue and practical partnership.

The Family House has a mandate to interact with government ministers through its committee work in education, media, youth, and religious discourse. But it is this latter committee which is actively preparing its second mandate: Taking the message of national unity to the grassroots.

For it is here that the real challenge of terrorism and sectarianism must be fought. No matter the international scope of these issues gripping the region, too many Egyptians are drafted into extremism.

‘This session coincides with a bloody period that Egypt is going through, killing Muslims and Christians together,’ said Sheikh Muhi al-Din Afifi, head of the Azhar’s Islamic Research Center. ‘We must spread a culture of citizenship, love, peace, and coexistence.’

The military aspect of this challenge is important, Bishop Mouneer emphasized. ‘But ideology is more important and this is why we are here today,’ he said.

‘I hope and trust this will not be our last meeting, but the beginning of our mutual work.’

Imam-Priest 2

November 3-5 witnessed the final of four sessions during which 35 imams and 35 priests from throughout the country lived together, attended training seminars, and visited local historical and religious sites. Their dialogue, so to speak, was not the formal discussion of religious doctrines, but rather the exchange of life, rubbing shoulders over meals and jokes.

They repeated the program experienced a year earlier by seventy others, to be repeated again in 2015 with seventy more.

The first session concerned how to get to know each other, followed in the second by how to live together. But as participants grew more comfortable the purposes grew more demanding. Session three was on how to cooperate, and session four on how to work together.

‘I beseech you to have joint work together throughout Egypt,’ said Afifi, ‘not just religious but also medical and developmental.’

It was not easy in the beginning. During the first session the 2013 graduates were brought back to testify of their experiences. Imams and priests demonstrated their newfound friendships, as just a year previously they had not known each other.

However, there remains challenges in these relationships. Some spoke that a priest would never be welcome in a mosque, nor an imam in a church. Some emphasized the glories of their own religion, and some described others as not really wanting to be there in the first place.

‘It is very hard work,’ said Saleem Wassef, the project director and a lay minister in the Anglican Church. ‘But I stress to them we are here to emphasize a culture of “me and you together,” rather than simply “me or you.”’

These grumblings, however, were outnumbered by testimonies of interaction. Fr. Mityas of Fayoum visited Sheikh Ali when his wife fell ill. Fr. Suriyal of Ismailia visited schools and hospitals with Sheikh Abdel Rahman. Fr. Kyrillos of Port Said solved sectarian problems with Sheikh Hassan. And Sheikh Hisham of Mallawi visits coffee shops with various priests of his city, asking people their impressions about men of religion.

These social appearances are to Bishop Mouneer one of the most important outcomes of the meetings.

‘We are not here to listen to lectures and visit locations,’ he told participants, ‘but each one after leaving here must look for the closest imam or priest near to him and make relationships, hold seminars, and walk in the street together.’

Imam-Priest 3

Indeed, as imams and priests left their hotel in Dokki they needed to go about four blocks to a main road where the bus could take them to their next location. Onlookers stopped conversations and turned to watch the unusual spectacle.

Some priests confessed they had all but stopped walking alone in the streets of their cities, being subject to insults and even spitting. But walking together makes a great difference.

‘Egyptians love men of religion,’ said Fr. Arsanious of Beni Suef, ‘and if they see a priest and an imam together it influences them to work together and overcome fanaticism.

‘These displays of love are like the leaven that spreads through the whole community.’

Fr. Arsanious wants to help open a regional branch of the Family House in his area. Fr. Mikhail and Sheikh Emad hope to begin work in the Cairo slum of Kilo Arba wa Nus.

If successful, they will follow in the footsteps of the previous class which opened branches in Alexandria, Luxor, Port Said, Ismailia, and Giza. This is where the real work takes place, outside the conferences, which will prove their lasting value. Will the friendships forged between imams and priests over the course of a year carry over into continued cooperation?

In expectant hope, Wassef trained them how to measure the fruit of their friendship. Are they working together as a team? Have they touched all classes of their local area? Have they incorporated others already at work in civil society? And have they written out a plan to accomplish the above, with deadlines?

‘We are working hard to exchange a culture of hatred with a culture of love,’ said Wassef. ‘This is for the welfare of our country, to change the minds of Muslims and Christians toward one another.

‘The project helps reach unreached places.’

Imam-Priest 4

This article was originally published at the website of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt.

 

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Excerpts

Copts Unite with Muslims after Islamist Attacks

Bishop Thomas of Qussia
Bishop Thomas of Qussia

From Egyptian Streets, elaborating on how Bishop Thomas defended his church in Upper Egypt, which I briefly mentioned in this report:

“We learned that extremists were going to attack us with machine guns, but we did not prepare ourselves for the attack with weapons. We did something simple,” says Bishop Thomas, about that day he received a message that armed hardliners were on their way to his episcopal residence in the Al Quosia-region of Lower Egypt.

Determined to defend themselves without violent means, the church fathers applied soap and water on the rocky path leading to Bishop Thomas’ residence.

“I saw them coming with their machine guns far down the road. They tried to get to the house, but they slipped and fell. They tried over and over again, without succeeding,” says the Bishop, smiling with grief as he talks about the episode.

The grief is over the many homes in his diocese which were attacked. But he is resisting the urge to demonize:

“Fear and anger does not come in my heart. Fear is the biggest enemy – this makes you lose wisdom and power,” said the Bishop gently when asked about the impact of the violence on life as a Copt. “Hatred is the biggest disease – full of revenge and the source of all evil.”

Doing so enables him to take a path different from many Copts, who have embraced the current crackdown on Islamists:

“I need to embrace the victims with love and communicate forgiveness. When the worst assaults are over, my task is to promote and facilitate reconciliation,” said the Bishop calmly while smiling. “The Coptic church is training people to see the situation from different perspectives, we teach them the difference between autocracy and democracy, and the meaning of a civil state. We are working against both a religious – and a marshal state.”

The attacks, some might say paradoxically, have brought the Muslims and Christians of his area closer together:

“Poor Muslim families brought blankets to the Christians who lost their homes, and together we formed a civil front– not Christians against Muslims– but civil society against extremism,” explained the Bishop.

Among the issues discussed jointly were defense-tactics and how to prevent any new attacks.

Images and video-clips from Muslims and Christians, who hand in hand formed a protective ring circle around churches, were shared on social media across the globe.

“No one who has not experienced sectarian violence close up will be able to imagine what this solidarity means to us, as a society,” said Bishop Thomas gratefully. “We did actually lose hope under Morsi. Now we are hoping and praying that the price Copts are paying now will benefit generations of Egyptians in the future.”

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Aslan Media Middle East Published Articles

Muslims Care for the Heart of a Monk

A spiritual man, Fr. Mercurious knows the only guarantee is from the hand of God. At the same time, his surgery to prevent a heart attack was in the hands of Muslims.

A few weeks ago the forty year old monk in the Monastery of St. Makarious in Wadi Natrun had open heart surgery. Suffering from high cholesterol, his doctor advised this course of action at the earliest date possible.

With genetic propensity from his father, and narrow arteries from his mother, the simple diet of a monk was not enough to guarantee health.

Fr. Mercurious did not intend it to be so originally, though this had nothing to do with religious preference. Like many Egyptians, he inquired first if he could travel to the US or UK for surgery. When embassy procedures did not go anywhere, his doctor recommended a specialist hospital in 6 October City, a new development outside of Cairo.

The surgery went well. Muslim Egyptian doctors grafted veins from his arms and legs to bypass his arteries, which were blocked at 95%. They even gave him special deference due to his clerical disposition.

It is not a remarkable thing, really. Well trained doctors demonstrate their skills on a human being. Unfortunately, it is often not the sort of story heard about Egypt.

Fr. Mercurious related his operation in the context of the changing religious climate of Egypt. While admitting his isolation from the world, he keeps up with events through visitors to the monastery and their tales of political and social developments.

Before entering the monastery after university studies, Fr. Mercurious stated he had only the best of relations with all Muslims he knew. Yet in the past several years he had the impression that the number of ‘extremists’ was increasing.

Is this a function of real change in the character of Muslims, or of real change in the perceptions of his Christian visitors? Surely the two must be somewhat related.

Dr. Mohamed el-Menissy is a Muslim doctor who volunteered at the field hospital in Kasr el-Dobara Evangelical Church near Tahrir Square during clashes in November. In asking him about his experience – not his faith – he insisted over and over again that Muslims and Christians love each other in Egypt. He was near desperate to get this message across to the West. He even gave me the phone number of his Christian doctor colleague so as to confirm their friendship.

Of course Dr. Menissy is telling the truth of his experience, but does such single-mindedness betray a deeper reality frantically denied? Is he hoping the world to be right, if only by insisting it is?

Perhaps it is as simple as rightful offense at media – both Western and Arab – which focuses on problems to such degree it obscures reality, perhaps even to the extent of transforming it. Speaking to media, perhaps Dr. Menissy wanted to transform it back.

What purpose does this story serve, then? In highlighting a non-news event of a Muslim doctor operating successfully on a Coptic monk, do I help stem the tide of negative reporting? Or do I play into the narrative of distinction between Muslim and Christian?

Fortunately, I carry no such burden. I tell the story of the monk because he is my friend and it is interesting. I tell the story of Dr. Menissy because it fits in this context and honors his desire. Both show a slice of life that is worthy to be known more widely.

As for what these stories say about Muslim-Christian relationships in Egypt: They say the truth. It is not the whole truth, but it is an essential truth.

The next time a church burns, it is important to acknowledge this as the truth also. One story balances another.

Such complexity marks our own lives – we chafe at being reduced, simplified, or misunderstood. Let us grant the same grace to Egypt.

After all, as these stories show, she shows much grace to her own.

Related Posts:

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Personal

Statistics on Religious Perspectives in Egypt

On September 25 al-Masry al-Youm published a very interesting survey on religious perspectives conducted by the Information and Decision Support Center of the Egyptian Cabinet of Ministers. Here are a few of the significant findings; keep in mind that Christians make up between 6-11% of the population:

  • 73% of Egyptians are religious and pray regularly.
  • 38% are open to friendships with those of other religions, while 62% are not
  • 87% would not mind having a neighbor from another religion, while 13% would
  • 78% believe there are no problems between Muslims and Christians, while 19% say there are
  • 16% wish to omit the reference to religion on the national ID card, while 76% favor it
  • 58% stated they would not vote for a president of a religion different than their own, while 36% said they would
  • 37% stated they would not vote for a parliamentary candidate different than their own, while 60% said they would
  • 65% stated they would not be affected if a cleric endorsed a certain candidate, 16% said they would consider it, and 14% said they would follow it
  • 25% stated they support the Muslim Brotherhood, 25% said they are indifferent to it, and 21% said they opposed it

Please note there are other interesting statistics in the article, but I did not include them because the percentage totals seemed to be in error. Imagining this to be the error of the article, it should add an additional grain of salt to the above figures, beyond that which should be given to statistics in general.

Observations

Should the statistics presented be accurate, however, it sheds light on Egyptian society and political questions.

  • It confirms that Egyptians are very religious in nature, which has been documented elsewhere.
  • It confirms the statement that Muslims and Christians live peacefully as neighbors in mixed communities, but confirms also the suspicion that their relationships are not very strong.
  • Assuming, perhaps wrongly, that many Christians would be among the 19% claiming interreligious problems, it illustrates a large number of Muslims, though certainly the minority, agree with them.
  • It lends confirmation that religion and identity are strongly intertwined, as the percentage of religiosity roughly equals the percentage wishing religion to remain an official national designation.
  • It illustrates a high percentage of the population is uncomfortable with political leadership being in the hands of a different religion, yet mostly at the level of the head of state. In Islamic history, while the caliph was necessarily a Muslim, members of other religions have often served as high level functionaries in government. It appears the majority of the population translates this notion into acceptance of interreligious parliamentary representation.
  • It counters the notion that religious clerics exert a great influence on the voting patterns of the population. During the March 19 referendum passed overwhelmingly by the population, opponents complained that many clerics urged their communities to vote yes, even declaring such a vote to be an Islamic duty. While 14% acceptance of a clerical endorsement is still large, it by no means characterizes the Egyptian people.
  • It confirms the strong popular base of the Muslim Brotherhood while illustrating also a similarly large opposition to their program. Upcoming elections may well be determined by which group successfully mobilizes their supporters and recruits the middle ground. With committed and organized members, however, these statistics may confirm that the Muslim Brotherhood has an advantage in the competition.

 

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Personal

In Aftermath of Maspero, a Muslim holds a Cross

Just to pass on briefly, with no verified authenticity or knowledge of details, here is a picture taken of a solidarity demonstration over Christian deaths at Maspero. If a Salafi, as the original link asserts, it would represent a very necessary coming together of two sides almost completely isolated from each other. May they be brought closer, though through other means than this.

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Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

A Muslim Clears a Path through Prayers

Friday Prayers in a neighborhood of Cairo (not from this story)

Friday in Egypt is the day for Muslim prayers, which throughout Islamic history have been a communal event. Around midday the faithful flock to the neighborhood mosque, listen to a sermon, and perform their prayers.

Over the last few decades in Egypt this communal event has spilled out into the street, as Muslims unfurl their prayer rugs and close off the area to traffic for about an hour. In one explanation, this is due to the increasing number of Muslim participants. In another, this is due to the desire of many to assert their religious identity on the fabric of society. In a third, it is the preferred practice to pray in the open air, according to Sunni traditions. But it is a well established pattern and causes little social disruption.

That is, unless in you are driving during the hour when the time of prayer is approaching.

Sherry Ramzy lives in the Cairo isle of Manial enveloped within the Nile River. Out and about on Friday she was passing by the local mosque, as the street was beginning to fill with worshippers.

Hesitant to brave the crowd but already committed in her path, Sherry followed the lead of the taxi driver in front of her, who moved through carefully, but successfully.

As she trailed him, however, the taxi driver stopped to get out and pray, and a donkey cart with vegetables for sale crossed the road and set up shop, blocking the remaining small opening through the mass of people. Before too long, Sherry was surrounded. Meanwhile, the lady with the donkey cart began shouting, “She saw the prayers were beginning, she should have stopped!”

A sense of panic began to settle in. Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt are generally calm, but as the religious identity of both communities has increased, tensions have sometimes developed. Sherry is one who believes prevailing Christian and Muslim attitudes toward each other is too negative. Nevertheless, as a Christian out of place, possibly disturbing a holy Muslim moment, she began to fear. At the very least she faced sitting locked in her car for the next hour. At the worst, she could become a spark that aroused Muslim anger. Helplessness has a way of letting the imagination run wild.

Helplessness also increases the joy of rescue. Before too long the taxi driver took notice of her plight, and asked the owner of the donkey cart to move. This opened a path just wide enough for Sherry to drive through, enabling her to continue on her way. She took notice that her salvation came from one with a long beard and white robe, and wondered if he was not only a Muslim, but a Salafi.

Salafi Muslims follow a conservative interpretation of Islam, calling for the imitation of the life and practice of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, generally rejecting modernity as inimical to Islam. They have become feared as a social force which could sideline democracy through democratic means. They have also aroused the worry of Christians, as a number of pejorative comments and physical attacks have issued from their community.

Sherry, however, wishes to see that such generalizations are not applied to the whole community. She wrote a description of her experience and posted it on her Facebook page. She desires to see good relationships formed between the Christians and Salafis of Egypt. These may have opposite goals for society, but one must not reject the other out of hand.

Sherry had an open mind and heart to Muslims before her incident, but note the power of kindness while in need. The Muslim in question did nothing more than ask a donkey cart be moved a few feet. But to do so, he needed also to inconvenience those preparing for prayer around it. It was a small matter, but required a fair number of people to adjust in favor of a displaced Christian.

The repercussions of this kindness, however, multiply. Sherry has over two hundred friends on her Facebook page; add to this those who read this article. The taxi driver could easily have ignored her; instead, a positive testimony reaches hundreds of people.

This testimony does not invalidate the true accounts of Salafi provocation, heard by thousands. Unfortunately, bad news travels far faster than good. Yet it seeks to show the humanity, goodness, and, as Sherry emphasizes, the Arabness of individuals within the movement. It may well be this testimony represents the majority.

May we be mindful of the unknown consequences – both positive and negative – that our seemingly minor actions set in motion. Furthermore, may we purpose to exhibit such kindness, especially to those considered as against us. Egypt needs repair; it needs relationships built and reestablished. Such actions have the ability to warm hearts and change opinions.

As Sherry received, may we all so give. The world is no less needy.