Sectarian differences in Egypt not among factors in protest, says Global Minstries’ staff for the Middle East

Sectarian differences in Egypt not among factors in protest, says Global Minstries’ staff for the Middle East

As the massive political protest movement in Egypt continues to expand and gain momentum entering its fourth week, religious differences within the region are not among the catalysts of the upheaval, says Peter Makari, Global Ministries’ executive for the Middle East and Europe.

“This is not a sectarian movement,” says Makari. “It’s not a movement of an Islamic group, it’s not a movement of Christians, it’s not a matter of religion. This is about political reform. It’s about economic needs of the people, and it’s about hope for a better future.”

Makari says that Muslims and Christians have been “out there together” in peaceful demonstrations.

“We’ve seen in the streets Muslims praying while Christians are around the perimeter making sure the people praying are safe, and we’ve seen the inverse also,” he says. “There’s a clear expression about this being about Egypt and also an opportunity for the different religious communities to affirm their relationship in a positive way.”

Makari says this is especially significant in light of the New Year’s Eve bombing of the Coptic Saints Church in east Alexandria that killed 21 people and injured at least 79 others. The high-profile attack on Christians incited significant sectarian tension at the time.

UCC partners in Egypt are the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Coptic Evangelical Church (Presbyterian), says Makari. “We also support the work of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), which is a major non-governmental organization with roots in the Presbyterian Church of Egypt.”

During the current events, leadership of the Protestant Churches of Egypt has affirmed publicly the people’s right to expression and suggested that reforms are necessary, says Makari. “It did say at the same time that ‘the position of the churches is to stay out of politics, [but hoped] that Egypt would remain a state based on rule of law.’”

Meanwhile, churches throughout Egypt continue to hold services, businesses are opening, and other organizations are trying to move forward.

“Two things are going on at the same time,” says Makari. “A return to normalcy, whatever that is going to be now, and also the continuation of the expression [of protest].”

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