It is a time of concern about developments in Egypt. The demonstrations on the Tahrir-square in Cairo were cause for optimism and hope for a new future. People awaited with bated breath how this would end. What worries us, is that we notice that threats and violence in the form of assaults against Christians have started again. The safety on the street has disappeared. Optimism disappears. Something we deeply regret.
As representatives of the Council of Churches in the Netherlands, the Contact Assembly Muslims and Government and the Coptic Orthodox Church in the Netherlands, we have had thorough discussions on the developments in Egypt.
We are impressed with the fact that especially the younger generation has succeeded in an almost non-violent manner to force president Mubarak to step down and we draw courage from the atmosphere on the Tahrir-square in Cairo:
- The manner in which Christians were standing around Muslims during the Friday-afternoon-prayers to protect them against the police;
- How in reverse the Muslims were standing around the Christians during the celebration of Mass.
Television images and pictures were passed all over the world; they stand at right angles to all kinds of fanaticism and violence.
The events on the Tahrir-square are a source of inspiration, also for the interreligious encounters in the Netherlands. Since the arrival of large groups of Muslims to the Netherlands in the period of the seventies and eighties of the last century, efforts have been made in developing mutual good relationships between Christians and Muslims, both on national and local levels. Also on behalf of these good relations, we are able to meet each other around the table in this formation.
We realize that peace between the religions exists only, if we are willing to grant others the same freedom of religion, as we wish for ourselves. This has been imbedded in the Quran, among others with the verse: “There is no compulsion in religion” (Sura 2: 256). This is a correction on all forms of religious violence. In this situation, Christians orientate themselves on the suffering and dying of Jesus Christ and on the words spoken about him: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2: 23). This is an invitation to follow into the steps of Jesus, to serve to each other and the society.
In the Netherlands, we have the right to religious freedom since the Union of Utrecht in 1579. We cherish this right that was acquired a long time ago. Over and again we discuss what it means for us and our mutual relationships and for others having same rights on freedom of religion as we have; also how violence – in whatever form – could be avoided and opposed.
Especially the young people in Egypt cherish the ideal of making Egypt the country for all its sons and daughters, Muslim and Christian, men and women, farmers and citizens, parents and children. We hope and pray that the dreams about a righteous and democratic country with freedom of religion for everyone in Egypt, will become reality and will remain. And not only in Egypt, but also in Tunisia, Libya, in all Arab countries and the rest of the world, everywhere where people experience violence or exclusion as a result of their faith or expression thereof.
On behalf of the Contact Assembly Muslims and Government:
Kursat Bal, committee member, Telephone: (++31) (0)6 – 46 24 45 02
On behalf of the Council of Churches in the Netherlands:
Klaas van der Kamp, general secretary, Telephone: (++31) (0)6 – 16 27 79 73
On behalf of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the Netherlands:
Magdy Ramzy, secretary, Telephone: (++31) (0)6 – 53 15 99 33
Read translation of text by CIDT in Arabic