Christians put their own lives at risk protecting Muslims praying in Tahrir Square in Cairo amid violence between protesters and Egyptian President Mubarak’s supporters. And in Alexandria, tens of thousands of people have gathered in the centre of town, while Christians and others not performing Friday prayers formed a “human chain” around those praying to protect them from any potential disruptions. During the protests and popular uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government that started January 25th, Muslims had been attacked during prayers by police, security services, and gangs of Mubarak supporters (who were mostly paid mercenaries). The Muslims, while bowing in prayer, had faced water cannons, tear gas, stones being thrown, and direct attacks. The Christian community responded by waging a campaign of protection and support.
The Christians joined hands and faced out surrounding hundreds of Muslims protesters left vulnerable as they knelt in prayer. It was a display of unity emerging from the chaos in Egypt, bringing people together with a sense of community and common interests. Some Muslims had been guarding Coptic churches while Christians pray, and on Friday, Christians were guarding the mosques while Muslims prayed. The vast majority of people do not want a religious war between Muslims and Christians.
The pictures below were taken yesterday by Nevine Zaki in Tahrir Square in Cairo. They show the Muslim protesters kneeling to pray, leaving themselves vulnerable, while Christians join hands and stand watch to guard them.
It is inspiring to see diverse people join hands to protect another religion during their prayers in a sign of solidarity, in a sign that it matters not what religion, race, or creed you may be, it is the person that counts. This is what unites us, not divides us. And this was in spite of the pro-government gangs who attacked and charged at the protesters in Tahrir Square, killing hundreds of protesters and injuring thousands, in a rage of violence. And only a month after the Alexandria bombing where many Christians died at the hands of Muslim extremists. This is a peaceful revolution, from a land with over 7,000 years of civilization.
The behavior of the Egyptians show the power of unity, inspiring movements in other countries, and teaching a lesson of co-existence to humanity. It is still unclear how events will evolve, but the whole world is watching.
UPDATED FEBUARY 12…
The Egyptian people had lived under a single dictatorial ruler for 30 years. It took 18 days for the regime to crumble. And 30 seconds to deliver the speech announcing that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had finally stepped down. Leading to what a Guardian UK reporter observed as “a complete eruption of humanity, I have never seen anything like it. The world’s biggest street party has really kicked off here. There are huge huge crowds of people jumping up and down suddenly as one.”
The remarkable revolution was spearheaded by Egypt’s youth, who had grown up knowing nothing but Mubarak as President. It spread very quickly thanks to computer technology and the internet, especially through social networks like Facebook and Twitter. It was embraced by all of Egyptian society, the old and the young, men and women, urban and rural, rich and poor, Christians and Muslims and non-religious alike. That is what a true revolution, and real peace, looks like.
The president of the World Federation of Science Journalists, Nadia El-Awady, has been at the forefront of the demonstrations of the past weeks in her hometown of Cairo, Egypt. She is the co-director of the upcoming 7th World Conference of Science Journalists which is coincidently planned for Cairo on June 27 through 29, 2011. She has also managed training programs for Egyptian journalists for the International Center for Journalists. She had this to say regarding the events unfolding in Egypt…
“I’m an Egyptian revolutionary! And I helped topple a dictator! That was the message I tweeted to the world. For 18 days, more than 300 had died at the hands of the police and thugs reportedly leashed by the regime itself. Thousands were injured. Hundreds camped out in Tahrir Square, a majority with not much more than a single blanket to protect themselves from the elements. And yet millions of others marched day after day, voicing their demands that Mubarak and his regime leave. For the most part, when they were not being attacked, the mood among protestors was almost like a party; Tahrir Square felt like a carnival. On every corner, people sang, danced, recited poetry, discussed politics and, of course, marched round and round and round and round calling for an end to the regime.”
Karim Medhat Ennarah, one of the protesters, explained, “For 18 days we have withstood tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, molotov cocktails, thugs on horseback, the scepticism and fear of our loved ones, and the worst sort of ambivalence from an international community that claims to care about democracy. But we held our ground. We did it.”
And in an amazing display of community, the first order of business for the protesters after overthrowing the regime was cleaning the city.
Good Magazine was inspired by a BBC statement from Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt during the recent uprising…
“Schools in Cairo have been closed during the protests. But there are so many mothers who want to attend the demonstration that many bring their children here – to a kindergarten organised by the demonstrators.”
They asked their readers for more information about the kindergarten, and received this reply from Mosa’ab Elshamy, a pharmacy student in Cairo taking part in the demonstrations…
“I’m not exactly sure when the kindergarten idea started, but I’d say it became most prominent when the situation in Tahrir got less tense, which was from the second Friday. The first one, January 28, in which people marched from every district in Cairo to Tahrir, was a violent and bloody one. Police used every possible means of suppression from tear gas to live ammunition. Very few families stayed in Tahrir then as it wasn’t safe.
The place was mostly occupied by young men but, still, a few women were present there. The second Friday, the 4th of February, was a festive one. It was after the tense situation in Tahrir cooled for a bit, and the army had finally stepped into the picture, offering protection and keeping the thugs away. The mood stayed like that throughout the week until the decisive Friday, February 11, when Mubarak stepped down and jubilation ensued.
So, from this second Friday, the 4th, till a week later, Tahrir was one of the happiest places on earth. The spirits were wonderful throughout, and more people started believing in us. Tahrir was much safer, the thugs’ attacks had stopped. Many factors allowed families to come to Tahrir then. A lot of them would usually come early, spend the day chanting, singing, and enjoying the general mood, then leave before the curfew hours started. There were a few families that stayed, though, and that sparked the idea to create a kindergarten in Tahrir Square.
I would say, like the BBC suggested, that many brought their kids out of fear of leaving them alone. I personally met an Alexandrian family on one of the very first days of the revolution. They had come all the way from Alexandria—quite distant from Cairo—and their child was barely two-years-old. I had to ask the mother why would she come along, and weren’t they afraid for the kid? But her answer was that she just couldn’t stay at home. That her husband came and she had to join him along with their toddler. So that’s one reason why families were in Tahrir. But not the only reason. Even the kids knew what was happening in Tahrir and wanted to join in the festivities. They didn’t want to miss something like that.
It’s difficult to estimate numbers, but I think not less than 10 percent of those present in Tahrir were families. They added a special spirit to what we started calling Republic of Tahrir. Some of the kids would do their own marches around the square, with people applauding and smiling at them. They were quite an integral part of the place and everyone took care of them. When Tahrir would get crowded and a kid got lost from his parents for a while, we would quickly mention their name in the large microphones set in the square and the parents would easily find them.
I wouldn’t say the kindergarten idea was set up by specialists. But there were people of all professions in Tahrir which obviously included teachers. But many of those working on the kindergarten were ordinary mothers who would take care of the kids and look over them while they were painting or reading. It was usually set in the safest area of the square, just in case anything would happen, and the kids were being kept at a distance from any possible tension. But obviously it wasn’t professionally set up. I mean, it didn’t have working hours or a fixed schedule, because the place was quickly developing and changes were taking place from day to day. Still, the main core was maintained and any kid could join, play with others for some time, and indulge in children’s activities for a while. It was quite heartening to say the least.
Except for the street vendors which set their spots and sold food or telephone recharge cards, almost everything in Tahrir was free. New supplies arrived in the square on a daily basis like blankets, medical aids, and tents and they were being given to everyone in need. So, yes, to answer your question, the kindergarten was obviously free of charge just like everything else.”
The following is from Michael Brownstein’s description of “What the Egyptian Revolution Means” for Reality Sandwich…
“Everyone used to say that there is no hope, that no one will turn up in the street, that the people are passive. But the barrier of fear was broken!” exclaimed Asmaa Malifour, 26, an activist in Cairo.
The events in Egypt are beyond breathtaking, that a people so long oppressed have by themselves risen up to cast off their oppressors. Surging through the streets in uncountable thousands, burning police stations to the ground, convincing army troops of their commonality, spontaneously organizing themselves to protect property, direct traffic, and deal with emergencies, smoking out Mubarak’s attempt to capitalize on the inevitable looting and violence, they are revealing to the world a new national template: self-organization. A template we know operates in biology and ecology but have never before seen realized on such a scale among human beings.
“We want to show the world that we can take care of our country, and we are doing it without the government or the police,” said Khalid Toufik, 40, a dentist in Alexandria.
Because above all, beyond struggling to get rid of Mubarak and free themselves from their addiction to American money and armaments, the Egyptian people have glimpsed the possilbility that they can do all this without falling back on traditional political parties. Even as an idea, even as an ideal, this is the most extraordinary aspect of what is taking place. A movement born out of youth and led by youth, without recourse to professional leaders, the Egyptian revolution presents us with the possibility of living in an entirely new way, of circumventing a 6000-year-old model in which “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
ElBaradei, the Muslim Brotherhood, the oligarchy, Army generals, splinter parties: the Egyptian people are getting the extraordinary notion that they can survive perfectly well without them.
Talk about a mythic moment, not only for Egyptians but for the rest of us. Whether or not such an outpouring of virginal, never-before-seen energy lasts, whether or not an enduring way is found to escape the age-old hieracrchy of business as usual, with people free to organize their lives completely “outside the Beltway”, for the first time such a possibility has been burned into our consciousness on a national scale, related to but beyond the self-organizing experiments of intentional communities. As such, what’s going on in Egypt is unprecedented.
No wonder dictatorial regimes in Yemen, Algeria, Libya, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and elsewhere are doing their best to distort and suppress what’s taking place there. No wonder calls for incremental change from the “comfort food” leadership in Europe and the United States are falling on deaf ears. As one banner in Tahrir Square read: “A revolution of the people, not the parties.”
What’s happening in Egypt has sometimes been labeled “al-Jazeera’s revolution” because of that channel’s decisive presentation of images of revolt while the rest of world media hung back. Day after day, viewers throughout the Arab lands mirrored the demonstrators in Cairo and came away with the sense that they, too, might take to the streets to accomplish their goals. But not only Arab viewers: new memes are being downloaded into the psyches of people everywhere, alchemically transforming pessimism and despair into “anything is possible.” Into “if they can do it, why not us?”
Such transparency is also, of course, what constitutes the threat of Wikileaks (and other such sites) to the established order. No secrets — what a concept, beside which pale any number of well-intentioned Freedom of Information Acts. No secrets — not tomorrow or next year, not dependent on lawyers filing briefs or on political pressure, but today, now. For all to see.
Sooner or later, without feeling in danger of losing our national identities, customs, and languages, we will understand that our allegiance belongs to something larger than those symbols which separate us, symbols co-opted by warring nation-states for perpetuation of the status quo. Sooner or later, without the paranoid fantasy of one world government, a new flag — the image of a luminous globe floating in black space — will be raised over the planet. And we will perhaps begin, at long last and as best we can, to organize our lives around our common humanity.