tahrir square

'The Square' Sheds Light on Egypt's Religious and Political Divisions

Film poster for “The Square” courtesy of “The Square” film. Via RNS

There’s a lot anyone can learn from Jehane Noujaim’s Oscar-nominated documentary The Square, an examination of the 18-day uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

But Egyptians may be least able to benefit from its lessons. So far, the film has not been approved for screening here.

On the third anniversary of Mubarak’s ouster, which falls on Tuesday, Egypt is more polarized than ever, largely between those who are sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and those who support the military. The film is a reminder of what Egyptians share, regardless of religious or political beliefs.

An Antidote to Religious Strife in Egypt: Nationalism

Two young Egyptians on top of a tramway pole holding Egyptian flag. Photo via Shutterstock, by George Nazmi Bebawi

After decades of polarization along religious lines, Christians and Muslims in Egypt are coming together to rally behind their flag.

The country is in the midst of a swell of nationalism that began during the revolution in 2011 and intensified when citizens took to the streets in June of this year to call for the removal of President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian flags adorn houses and buildings throughout the capital, and everything — from sandbags buttressing military blockades to pillars along the Nile Corniche — has been painted in the national colors of black, white, and red.

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:

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.

Egypt's Coptic Christian Community Faces Harsh Persecution

Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic Christian pontiff, listens to President Obama deli

Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic Christian pontiff, listens to President Obama deliver a speech in Cairo, Egypt in 2009.

Just days before the country’s first democratic election (set for Nov. 28), 27 Coptic protestors were killed for demonstrating against the military’s recent burning of a Christian community center. And despite drawing global attention, which included anti-violence demonstrations in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, the Global Post reports that, "the demonstrations reflect mounting fears in Egypt’s Coptic community and its Diaspora that after the pro-democracy uprising of earlier this year the predominantly Muslim Egyptian society seems as indifferent to the Christian minority’s concerns as ever. “

New Models of the Church in a New Media World

In his seminal 1974 book Models of the Church, theologian Avery Dulles offered five paradigms, or "models," each of which called attention to certain aspects of the worldwide Christian church. The church, Dulles wrote, is in essence a mystery -- a reality of which we cannot speak directly. Thus we must draw on analogies to understand the church in deeper ways.

Dulles developed five models, drawing on a range of theological schools and traditions, both Protestant and Catholic, to illuminate different aspects of the church. His models included church as institution, mystical communion, sacrament, herald, and servant. Dulles was careful to point out that no single model, by itself, adequately paints a complete picture of the church; each contains important insights about the nature of the church.

A Democratic Egypt: Worker Justice and Civilian Rule

After months of good-faith reforms and patience, the drama is back in Egypt's Tahrir Square as protesters are preparing for a potential showdown with the state's military rule. The movement, among other things, is demanding an end to military rule -- a more radical call that reflects both the frustration with the status quo and the hope for a better way.

Two weeks ago, at the "Day of Persistence," Egypt saw its largest resurgence of public protest since former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February. The nation-wide protests show Egyptians camping out in Cairo's Tahrir Square, staging sit-ins and blocking traffic in Alexandria, and threatening to shut down Suez's tunnel access to Sinai. So why are the people confronting -- albeit nonviolently -- an interim government that has promised elections and a new constitution? A glance at the collective demands drafted in Tahrir Square make clear that the movement's demands -- both political and economic -- have not progressed much under the military rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

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