Evangelical Christmas with a nationalist flavour

Dina Ezzat , Saturday 7 Jan 2012

At Kasr El-Doubara, a downtown Cairo church that stands by the January 25 revolution, Muslims joined Christians for a Christmas Mass marked with hope and prayers for the martyrs of struggle

Egyptians celebrate Christmas at Kasr El-Dobara church near Tahrir Square 6 January, 2012 (Photo: Ma

“God, we pray that you give us a year without blood; we pray that you make it a year of solace for the families who lost their loved ones in the days of the revolution that started on 25 January; we pray that you dress the wounds of those injured during the Revolution and bless the eyes that were given for the Revolution," went the prayer of Sameh Maurice, the priest of the Evangelical Church of Kasr Al-Doubara.

The thousands present in the church — many held the Egyptian flag — joined in the prayer for Egypt to be blessed and for its Revolution “to bring prosperity and democracy to the nation."

For hours the Evangelical worshipers, joined by hundreds of Muslims, celebrated Christmas Eve and prayed for the unity of all Egyptians in the venue that had opened its doors to victims of police and military attacks against political activists demonstrating and staging sit-ins during the past few weeks in near-by Tahrir Square and its vicinity.

“This Christmas Mass is almost unprecedented for the Church,” said Alfi, one of the organisers; “many of those present came out of love and solidarity with a church that had served as a refuge for doctors to treat the wounded during the recent wave of demonstrations.”

Indeed, the congregation was exceptionally diverse. Muslim residents of Garden City were clearly involved in the festivities of a church that they consider their own in the emotional sense of the word.

Also present, and indeed celebrated, was one of the icons of the 25 January Revolution, Ahmed Harara – a dentist who lost both his eyes to police and military brutality on 28 January and 19 November. So was presidential hopeful Amr Moussa and a wide range of intellectuals, politicians, activists, artists and newly elected MPs, including novelist Alaa El-Aswani, MD Mohamed Aboul-Ghar, journalist Hamdi Qandil, actress Bassma and MPs Zeyad Bahaeddine, Zeyad Al-Eleimi and Amr Hamzawi.

“We could not have hoped for a greater show of love and sympathy,” said Alfi, who insisted that such participation was not simply a gesture of appreciation of the role that the church played during the days of the revolution and subsequent confrontations between activists and the police and the military but also an indication “that all these Muslim Egyptians are sending a clear message of solidarity with Christian Egyptians”.

It is this spirit of “love and warmth” that keeps Alfi hopeful that the rise of political Islamic trends and some extremist Islamic views will not “at all hijack the true spirit of tolerance that has always been a trademark of this people.

There might be some exaggerated rhetoric here and there but at the end of the day I will bet that Egypt remains the country that we were born and brought up in,” argued Alfi, who is also a Canadian citizen. “True, I could go and live in Canada; but I feel that now is the time for me to be here and to make sure that Egypt will keep its commitment to tolerance.”

According to the 59-year old Alfi and to others present at the Christmas Mass at Kasr Al-Doubara, including the 17-year old Sally, is to make sure that the new government and new president will do what it takes to make Egypt a better country for all Egyptians. Both Alfi and Sally are convinced that better education and an enlightened media discourse are essential for the welfare of Egypt.

“We need to have the quality of education and media that promotes concepts of dialogue and tolerance,” said Alfi. “And we need to build for the future rather than argue with one another about the present,” added Sally.

Like many worshipers and visitors of the church, Afli and Sally have much faith that things will improve. “Even if we go through some hardships in the next year or two, I am confident that at the end we will be able, as Egyptians, to recapture the spirit that united us all in Tahrir Square and that should guide us to make Egypt a better country,” said Sally.

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