Cornelis Hulsman has given us on March 16 a good opportunity to know more about his activity through the news agency Arab-West Report.
He told us that the reason for initiating this newsreport was the fact that news about events in Egypt, especially in reporting about clashes between Christians and Muslims were often very biased, if not false. He provided several examples of such reporting. Bad information creates more fanaticism, many times done on purpose by both sides.
His experience in the field has taught him that one has to get information on the location where events have taken place, looking for the background of these events, especially examining the personal relations among people involved. One must not generalize; one has to consider the particular circumstances of the events. A good example in case is Father Yu’annis, the Coptic priest of the village of Qufādah (Upper Egypt), who through his good relationships with Muslims has created an amicable atmosphere among all, overcoming many obstacles.
Hulsman said that investigative work is often very time consuming but it is possible to make aquaintance with a lot of people of both sides, fostering understanding and dialogue.
In the discussion that followed one participant pointed out that one also has to consider the propaganda of Islamists (i.e. Shaykh Sha’rāwī who for more than 30 years preached on Egyptian TV) aiming at fanatizing people. Vague rumors are sufficient in unlashing fanatic attacks from Muslims against Christians (see the recent case of the Sisters of Aswan). It is very important to find the way to counter such mentality. True, sincere dialogue remains the best way to break the chain of fanaticism. Good relationships help a lot in this sense too.