SAN FRANCISCO, February 7, 2011 – In a move that reflects the relationship between Muslims and Christians during earlier periods in history – peaceful and respectful co-existence, an unusual event took place yesterday in Tahrir Square.
On Sunday, Coptic Christians held a mass to honor the many that lost their lives in the violence of the past two weeks. A broad circle of Muslims stood shoulder to shoulder protecting the gathered Christians.
The Muslim presence thus seemed to allow and ensure the peaceful worship taking place in the square.
In a world seemingly devoted to conflict and ethnic violence, this unprecedented event may indicate a blip on the historic map of religious and political history. Or, it may point to something deeper in Egyptian culture. Is it possible that a more stable and cooperative future might arise from the aftermath of the Tahrir Square phenomenon?
Although many people view Egypt as largely Muslim, Christian history has deep and founding roots in Egypt. Coptic Christians form a branch of orthodox Christianity that link back to the first century. Some 20 million people practice Coptic Christianity around the globe, with almost 16 million of those living in Egypt.
Again, emerging from over a week of bloody conflict, it is too early to know precisely what this historic show of goodwill might mean for Egypt’s future. It may indicate a nascent and growing unity between Christian and Muslim people against a regime whose time to step aside has come.
Certainly, as both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the broader administration have continued to call for peaceful and swift transition, such a manifestation of tolerance may surprise certain elements of foreign and Egyptian societies.
Lastly, protestors continue to inhabit Tahrir Square waiting for a final pronouncement from President Hosni Mubarak that he will step down. Mr. Mubarak himself remains in symbolic power as the leader of the government. Whether or not he will finally step down is a question that no one can answer right now.
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