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Me and the Copts Part One

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“My name is Ahmed, this is my brother Mahmoud, and this is Hany, and that last kid is Christian”

Refaat Mohamed
10 June 2013

What I am going to say here might not be right, might not apply to everyone, might offend some other people, but they are not facts they are just my opinions based on my personal experience.

The Copts are the Christians of Egypt, who were in Egypt a long time before Islam came to Egypt. Muslims and Copts have lived alongside each others for a long long time. In general they have lived peacefully except for the occasional fights and quarrels every now and then.

One might ask for the reason for these fights. I would say that the human being is a discriminating creature who looks for differences from others before he seeks the things in common.  Plus Egypt’s recent path has been exceptionally congested when it comes to religious and sectarian issues of late. But also, the fact is, the relationship between the Muslims, and the Copts of Egypt is anything but simple. So I have decided to share my life experience with you, and maybe you can help me work it out.

But first, I want to get something out of the way. I love the Copts, I really do. I love my Christian friends, and when I meet a Christian Egyptian for the first time we usually hit it off, and I like the way they handle matters as a group. But then just like anything in the world there is the good and the bad, so there are good Christians, just like there are good Muslims and vice versa. The Copts are from this world, so this rule applies to them.

Before I begin to draw any conclusions on this matter, I will tell you a couple of incidents, in an effort to show you the nature of the relationship between us.

In Egyptian schools religious education is obligatory, so for organizational reasons my school would group all the Christian students in one class, and then fill the rest of the class with Muslims, as the number of Christians in each grade wouldn’t quite fill a 30-student class. They did that so that the Christian students would have their religious education period at the same time. In the first grade we had an Asian student. This was the first time most of us saw an Asian person in real life, so she became quite popular as soon as she stepped into the class. Her name was “ Amira Katrina “ and she was  a Buddhist if I remember correctly. I remember every time we had the religious education period she would go out with the Christian kids to have religious education in another room.

I was on a trip with this group, and we decided we should explore places in Egypt which we don’t normally go to. So we ended up in a small town in the south of Egypt. Like thousands of other towns in Egypt this was a town with minimum- to-no facilities, whose citizens lie in the area between the working class and the barely living. High levels of illiteracy exist among people who are mostly working as farmers.  We were walking and we met a group of 4 kids - all younger than 10 years’ old, playing ball together. Because we looked strange they stopped playing, and gathered around us and wanted to have their pictures taken with us. My friend told them that she will take their pictures only if they told us their names, so one of them stepped up and said “My name is Ahmed, this is my brother Mahmoud, and this is Hany, and that last kid is Christian”. We all stood there shocked, and then one of us surfaced and started telling the kid that this was not appropriate and that we are all Egyptians and all of us are humans….etc, and then we left and the kids continued playing,

Another time, I remember my aunt who grew up in an evangelical school, had friends of her daughter’s over at their house for lunch during their summer vacation. One of her friends was Christian, so her younger sister was very curious to go out to meet her sister’s friends, just to see what the Christian friend ‘looked like’.

Maybe it’s not fair telling these stories at all, since I can only witness them from one side. But I am pretty sure that the other side may have similar stories to tell - although it might not be as clear and obvious as these stories from the Muslim camp because Copts are a minority in Egypt, and they have no choice but to deal with Muslims in their everyday lives, which is not really the case for the Muslims.

For the common Egyptian Muslim and the common Egyptian Christian it is not a hate relationship, it is not even a love/ hate relationship. It is more just the realization of being different, and putting labels on each other, labelling the relationship a conflict, for example, so that we can call the conflict sectarian, and frighten those on the other side of the conflict. These labels we use to feel better about ourselves, and feel whatever happens, it is not our fault as human beings. But it’s the fault of the other side of ‘the conflict’- as  these people are followers of a different religion from me….. 

To be continued

 

 

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