Unity in faith
Egypt cannot afford to be sidetracked by confessional tensions and confrontations. Egyptians of all faiths need to focus on economic development and to improve their standard of living.
The relations between Muslims and Christians will be touchy for some time to come in the aftermath of the sorry events of Nagaa Hammadi. Further attacks by fanatics will hurt and inconvenience all Egyptians, Muslim and Christian alike.
The violence in Nagaa Hammadi shows how simple it is to inflame the passions of bigotry by individual and isolated incidents that can so easily turn into communal rioting and claim the lives of many people. Such incidents cannot be permitted to continue. Hooligans and thugs who burn churches and Christian places of worship must be severely penalised. Those who call for hatred and intolerance -- Muslim and Christian -- must be silenced. The time has come for all Egyptians to take this matter more seriously.
What is sorely needed now is brainstorming sessions by religious leaders, political personalities and public figures to work out solutions for the sectarian problem. The confessional tensions that have plagued the country in recent years are a symptom of a wider problem that needs to be addressed. In the first place, education, human rights and a better understanding of the responsibilities of full citizenship rights must be improved. Foremost, the message must be of tolerance for others; people with differing views and ideas, even contrary religious beliefs must be accepted. Democracies are based on diversity, not just of political and ideological orientations, but also of religious faiths. Pluralism is the mark of a vibrant and mature democracy and Egypt is heading in that direction. The time has come for the authorities, local communities and especially religious leaders to take this matter more seriously.
Second, education curriculums must reflect the new direction of national unity and tolerance of the other. Egypt is a multi- cultural and multi-religious nation. Egypt is not a homogeneous political entity. Therefore, Egypt cannot afford to be a battleground for conflicting and rival confessions. To begin with, children must learn at the earliest possible stage of their education to accept the other. They must understand that there will always be religious, cultural and other differences that distinguish them from some of their compatriots. Conformity should not be imposed on all Egyptians. Freedom of expression and freedom to practise one's religion are fundamental human rights. They are also the foundation stones of citizenship rights.
Egyptians are bound to learn from the sad experience of the Nagaa Hammadi incident. But Egyptians must reflect on the affair in a positive and constructive light.
The lessons to be drawn from such an experience should enrich our cultural heritage and propel us forward. However, if Egyptians succumb to the temptation to escalate religious bigotry and hatred which inevitably turns into sectarian strife, then the tragic events of Nagaa Hammadi will be repeated, and this is what must under no circumstance occur.