Posted in: Friday, October 1, 2021 – 7:55 PM | Last update: Friday, October 1, 2021 – 7:55 PM
In the previous article, we talked about the invitation made by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to myself and the journalist Hadeel Ghoneim, who at that time was the editor of “Perspectives” magazine, which was issued by Al-Shorouk House at the time. We were among a group of ten delegations, each delegation consisting of two people, one Muslim and the other Christian, from countries where Christians and Muslims live together, in order to present ten models of coexistence between Christians and Muslims to the American people, who were shocked by the bloody events of September 11, 2001 AD, and his reaction was Towards Muslims living in America is unexpected in terms of rejection and harassment of their neighbors…etc. The situation reached the point of killing a Christian hanging the picture of Pope Shenouda in his shop in New York, thinking that he was a Muslim hanging the picture of bin Laden, as there was no trust between the members of the same people. Hearing this event was a shock, and I said to myself: Has America turned into a third world divided between clans and parties?!
At the same time, we felt terrified. How would the dialogue be if the matter reached the point of murder?!
The program started with the gathering of the ten teams in a conference center called stony point as a meeting point in New York for two days, during which we heard about the situation in America in general regarding events, the religious map and what it contains of the various tensions and reactions in the American society. Then, the next day, we heard the Islamic position in America from some Muslim leaders there, especially about what happened after September 11, and my team had to go to three states: Michigan, Missouri and California. In Michigan, the first meeting was in Birmingham, Detroit, in the First Presbyterian Evangelical Church, with Imam Qazwini, head of the Islamic Council in the city, the largest Islamic center in the United States of America at the time. And he was waiting for the arrival of Mr. Amr Moussa, who will inaugurate important expansions in the center after two or three days. Imam Qazwini was clever and clever in presenting his point of view, as he declared that Muslims in America enjoy more freedom than the Islamic countries from which they came, but he attacked Bush’s policy and announced America deserves a smarter president, it’s teeming with smart men. On the morning of September 11, we had the opportunity to visit a high school, and there I saw with my own eyes how they teach their children the love of the homeland, where the flag was at half-flat at first, and then the headmaster of the school spoke about America, the homeland, and one of the teachers rose to talk proudly about her son, the pilot, who left his wife and son and is now in Afghanistan defends the dignity of the homeland (you didn’t know that they would withdraw from there in confusion and shame after about twenty years), then a schoolgirl gave a sad poem in a terrible silence, after which they started raising the flag very slowly and then they saluted the flag. I gave a speech in five minutes about being an Egyptian Christian academic who belongs to the Martin Luther Reformation, and I live in a predominantly Muslim country. I rejoiced with Hadeel with their sharp applause when the name of Egypt was mentioned. In the evening, a special worship was held in all churches to commemorate September 11, in which Hadeel Ghoneim participated in reciting Qur’anic verses in Arabic and then translated into English, urging peace between nations and followers of religions.
In Missouri, we had a meeting with students and professors at the University of Westminster, and my students gathered from more than one university, and the dialogue was of course hot and different from the dialogue of the people of churches. As for the questions, they focused on eight important questions and were repeated almost everywhere, and they are as follows:
1 – If Islam is the religion of the majority in Egypt, how do Christians and Muslims deal with each other? How do they coexist in daily life? Is there a mixed marriage between Christians and Muslims?
2- What is the type of government in Egypt, religious or secular? What is the role of religion in forming the government and its impact on its decisions?
3- Describe Egypt’s relationship with the United Nations and the world community in general? What is the extent of Egypt’s impact on the global community in terms of its awareness of the requirements of the twenty-first century?
4 – What is your assessment of the performance of the Egyptian government in implementing and protecting human rights, as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
5- Explain the relationship between religion and politics in Egypt in general?
6- What do you think is necessary for application in the relationship of religion to politics in the United States of America?
7 – What do you think of the events of September 11.. Is there a relationship between the events of September and the Palestinian cause.. and what is the relationship of these events to Islam.. and what is the relationship of Islam to terrorism?
8 – What solutions do you see fit to eliminate terrorism in the world?
In the following lines, a summary of our answers to the questions.
In our answer to the first question, we explained that the relationship between Christians and Muslims in Egypt extends back to more than fourteen centuries. When Islam came to Egypt in the seventh century AD, Christianity was there for six centuries, and Christianity continued as the majority for another six centuries, as the population shift in favor of Islam began from the twelfth century AD.
But this does not mean that there were no problems. Problems existed from the first moment, and some of them still exist, including the old ones, and the new ones. But the Egyptian people are always inclined by their nature to peace, but the end result of the experience is encouraging. There have not been massacres throughout Egyptian history, as happened in Armenia, the Balkans, and others … etc. In recent years, there have been important developments in the relationship in terms of building churches, freedom of worship and respect for Christian holidays. In the education system and government offices.
In response to the second question: We said that there are three levels of dialogue between the Christian and Muslim peoples. The first level is the daily dialogue where Christians and Muslims live as neighbors and friends working together in the government, the public and private sectors, schools and hospitals, and there are continuous and multiple intimate relationships. As for the second level of dialogue, it is a cultural dialogue. It is adopted by civil non-governmental organizations that invite Muslim and Christian intellectuals to debate together on general issues of concern to the country as a whole, such as citizenship, the role of women, unemployment, etc., and to present and explain the Christian and Islamic opinion on such matters. Men are invited to these meetings. Religion from both sides, intellectuals and statesmen. As for the last level, it is theological and jurisprudential dialogue, and this only takes place within Al-Azhar University or the faculties of theology. As it is very dangerous for a theological dialogue to take place outside the specialized scientific institutes in our country.
As for mixed marriages, there are a few and rare, where society in general rejects such marriage due to many sensitivities that the West may need to realize because it depends on customs, traditions and civilization different from the customs, traditions and civilization of the West.
As for the government, we have mentioned that the Egyptian government is a secular government and its constitution is secular, although it stipulates that Islamic Sharia is the main source of legislation, and because the government is secular, therefore, among its members there is more than one Christian minister. Going back to history, there were Jewish ministers when a Jewish community lived in the homeland before 1948 AD, and accordingly, the government does not interfere with imposing the veil on women, but leaves freedom for those who want to wear it, or refuse to wear it, and religion has a clear role in government decisions because The influence of the Brotherhood, which has recently increased in the public sphere, and that the government is flirting with them at the expense of justice. We answered the questions with full transparency.
Dear reader, remember that these meetings took place more than two decades ago, that is, during the Mubarak era, before the January revolution and the Brotherhood’s rule for a year, then the June revolution and the selection of Sisi as president.