In response to the violence and deaths in Cairo, Egypt earlier this month, Anglican Archbishop Mouneer Anis in Cairo wrote the following public letter (copied here in part):
“The situation in Cairo is very sad for us as a Christian community. On Friday 6 April 2013, sectarian clashes erupted once again, this time in El Khosus, in the outskirts of Cairo. The story, according to the director of the police, started by a 12-year old Muslim boy drawing graffiti on the wall of an Islamic school. Two Muslim men rebuked him for doing so, and a Christian man also came and rebuked him. This developed into a big argument and fighting between Christians and Muslims in the area. After the Friday prayers in the mosque, a group of Muslims came out and attacked the Coptic Orthodox church in the area. The result of this was the killing of four Christians and one Muslim, and many injured. Many stores were also vandalized and looted. The Grand Imam sent his assistant, together with a Coptic Orthodox bishop, in order to do a reconciliation. However, one hour after things calmed down, the fighting erupted again.
“The next day there was a funeral at the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Abassayia the centre of Cairo for the Christians who died. Thousands of Christians attended the funeral. Amidst their mourning and grief they were shouting words against the government and against the Muslim Brotherhood. Because of this, as they exited the Cathedral and the church grounds, they were attacked by other Muslims. The police then interfered throwing teargas. At least one person was killed with over 80 injured. This was the first time in history that the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral was attacked, especially during a time of mourning.
“It is worth mentioning that in the last two years, since the beginning of the Revolution of 2011, the number of incidents of sectarian clashes has increased. No one who committed violence or killing has been brought to justice because the government is content to solve the sectarian clashes by reconciliatory meetings. In a statement I made, I urged the government to apply the rule of law as the only way to stop these sectarian clashes. I emphasized the importance of the reconciliatory meetings which we as an Anglican Church are facilitating at several levels. I also emphasized that they are not a substitute to the application of the law. Unfortunately the current government is inexperienced and is not doing enough to include the different political parties in building up Egypt after the Revolution. This contributed to the instability of the Egyptian society, the decrease of tourism, and the bad economic situation.”
It brings me great sadness to hear that Egypt – one of the oldest and greatest civilizations on earth – is so divided against itself, and its leadership seemingly helpless to stop the violence. I invite all reading this to join me in prayer for peace in Egypt and safety for all those who live there.
I also want to take this opportunity to point out how inaccurate news reporting has become. We can no longer depend on news agencies of any stripe to supply us with anything more than headlines. From the reports below the only FACTS we can gather are (1) there was violence in Egypt on April 6 and (2) people died. Beyond that the reporting differs sharply from what people with feet on the ground tell us.
Here are two different reports, one from a respected liberal secular news agency, the other from a respected conservative Christian ministry. Neither is an eyewitness account, and neither reports the events as Bishop Mouneer — who is not only physically present but actively involved in reconciliation efforts between Egyptian Christians and Muslims — reports them.
Mainstream media report: Five Die in Christian-Muslim Clashes
Conservative Christian ministry report: Egyptian Muslims Murdering Christians With Impunity
For those of us who care about truth, justice, peace, and reconciliation, it has become essential to build private networks to share information. Agencies that report the news to us — regardless of political stripe — have a vested interest in forming our opinions for us. Only information gathered person-to-person and face-to-face can possibly lead to sharing of truth, which is the foundation of compassion and peace.