A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, January 7, 2011

Early Indications: a Conciliatory Christmas in Egypt

Given the tensions that have built over the past week, Egypt entered Eastern Christmas last night with high nervousness, but there were wonderful signs of interfaith unity as well: Muslims planning to attend Midnight Mass or surround the churches as a human shield against attacks; statements of national unity from al-Azhar and most other religious bodies, and the like.

The early indications are positive. At Pope Shenouda's Midnight service at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Cairo (left), twelve government ministers were in attendance, as were Gamal Mubarak and his brother ‘Alaa, the French and US Ambassadors, and Muslim dignitaries. All seems to have gone smoothly, though with heavy security presence.

Egyptian Muslims seem really incensed about the Alexandria bombings, and so far they seem to be displaying a refreshing and welcome support of their Christian countrymen. If there were troubles in the provinces we may not hear of them right away, but in Cairo at least, despite strict security (and the cancellation by the churches of most Christmas celebrations other than liturgical ones out of mourning for the dead), things seem to have gone off well for the midnight celebrations.

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