Egypt

In the Stacks: Required Reading with Duane Shank

Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com.

Photo by Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock.com.

One of my must reads is the Sunday New York Times Book Review. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written.

Last Sunday, the Review ran an essay on how books affect Washington policy makers. Lawrence Summers, former director of the National Economic Council, says that a good review can often summarize what’s necessary for a policy maker to learn. He was quoted as saying, “If you tell me that the policy makers are reading the reviews, not the books, I don’t take that as evidence that the books aren’t influential.”

While I don’t fancy myself as a policy maker, the sentiment is also true for the rest of us.

Learn about two such new titles that may have an impact on public policy inside the blog...

Middle East Christians Keep Wary Eye on Arab Spring

CAIRO, Egypt — From her home, Samia Ramsis holds a key chain bearing the face of the Virgin Mary as visitors outside come to look upon the spot where Egypt's Coptic Christians believe Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus found refuge after fleeing Bethlehem.
   
Once crowded with Christians, Cairo's Coptic quarter where she lives with her husband, Mounir, and two children is now home to fewer than 50 Christian families.
   
"We know many Christians have left," said Mounir Ramsis, speaking not only about this quarter but about all of Egypt. "But we love this country and will stay until death."
   
The Arab Spring uprisings that toppled secular dictatorships have unleashed long-suppressed freedoms that have allowed Islamic parties to gain a share of political power they have been denied for decades. Their rise is creating near-panic among ancient Christian communities that dot the Muslim world and predate Islam by centuries.

Egypt: The Revolution One Year On

Tahrir Square, November 2011. Image via Wiki Commons.

Tahrir Square, November 2011. Image via Wiki Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/00/Tahrir_Square_on_Novembe

Today is one year to the day since protestors massed in Cairo's now-legendary Tahrir Square. Inspired by events in nearby Tunisia, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians called on their leader, Hosni Mubarak, to step aside and allow democratic reform to take place. The country, the city, the square, were (and remain) icons for what has become known as the Arab Spring.

The protests that began a year ago brought down a government that for too long had failed to care for its citizens in a manner that was good, decent and just. But in the time since, Egypt has walked a difficult path. How are Egyptians marking this poignant anniversary, how do they feel about the changes that have occurred, and what are their hopes for the years to come?

Here’s a round-up of some of the best insights into these questions from around the world:

The Top 10 News Stories of 2011: What Would Your List Include?

In mid-December, the Religion Newswriters Association released its top 10 religion stories of the year.  

The Associated Press now has its annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors and their choices for the top news stories of 2011.

Since this exercise is certainly a subjective one, your list might also be different from mine or the AP's.  What would you add or delete from these lists?

The Year of the Protester

TIME Magazine's Person of the Year 2011: The Protester

TIME Magazine's Person of the Year 2011: The Protester

I love seeing who is chosen as TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year.

But sometimes TIME's honoree is not just a “Person.” Sometimes it’s “Persons” or even a thing.

Sometimes it’s the biggest news story of the year. Sometimes it encapsulates the zeitgeist,  global urgings, or our collective mood.

This time around, it’s all of those things: A person, a group, a zeitgeist, a news story.

According to TIME, 2011 is the year of “The Protester.”

Egypt's Bumpy Road to Democracy

Initial results from Egypt’s first round of elections produced an unexpectedly large showing for Islamists. The Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood gained approximately 37 percent of the seats selected from political party lists, in line with predictions. The real shocker was the 24 percent vote obtained by the al-Nur party of the Salafi movement. The Salafis are extreme conservatives who favor restrictions on the role of women and Saudi-style controls on public morality. Liberal-left parties in the various party blocs gained about 37 percent. The results are very preliminary, with two more rounds of voting still ahead.

Revolution 2.0: Fulfilling Egypt's Democratic Promise

A peaceful demonstration floods Tahrir Square last Friday. Image courtesy of Kar

A peaceful demonstration floods Tahrir Square last Friday. Image courtesy of Karen Jacob.

The huge throng filled the entire Square and was reminiscent of the historic mass mobilizations in February that brought down the Mubarak dictatorship. The rally was announced as a ‘million man march’ and was backed of a broad cross section of Egyptian activist groups, from liberal secularists to conservative Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood did not support the march, although many of its youth members joined the crowd. The rally had a positive and hopeful spirit, in sharp contrast to the earlier violent clashes, which we witnessed on November 20.

The atmosphere in the Square on Friday was almost festive. We saw families with children, vendors selling food and drinks, face-painting on children (and thanks to a group of laughing teenagers, painted hands) and everywhere we saw the red, white, and black stripes of the Egyptian flag. It was a diverse crowd, young and old, women and men, middle class and the very poor. We were welcomed and greeted warmly by many.

The crowd was friendly but determined in its commitment to fulfill the promise of the revolution. There were no speeches, but constant chanting rose from groups throughout the Square, all with a similar message: Military rule must end.

Dark Days in Tahrir Square

Images captured Sunday 11/20/11 in Tahrir Square. Courtesy of Karen Jacob.

Images captured Sunday 11/20/11 in Tahrir Square. Courtesy of Karen Jacob.

As we gazed in shock at the battle below, Dr. Nadia quietly stepped back from the balcony.

We turned and saw her sitting alone in her office, hanging her head, shaking it from side to side in dejection. She had just said that the continued clashes were harming the revolution, that unknown forces were at work among the activists and in the military to undermine the revolution and prevent the transition to democracy.

No good can come from this, she said. Little could she have imagined that her words would be so quickly and horribly confirmed.

#OccupyWallStreet: A Generation Finds Its Voice

A TV reporter broadcasts from the NY protests last week/Photo by Tim King for Sojourners

I had seen people my age start successful businesses, become pop-stars and even play a key role in partisan political campaigns, but I had never seen them develop and sustain a social movement.

Sure there have been more focused shifts around issues like educational equity, LGBT rights or global poverty that my generation has had a hand in shaping, but nothing that quite had the look or the feel of what I imagined the anti-War or Civil Rights movements of the 1960s to have been. I assumed we -- my contemporaries ( I'm 27) -- simply didn't possess the interest or the will-power to accomplish something that big.

I was wrong.

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