Coptic Christians are worried about their future in the new Egypt, as I could see Thursday night at a political rally in a poor Coptic neighborhood known here as Garbage City.
Gathered in an alleyway framed by heaps of trash, and Christian symbols decorating every nearby wall, the residents heard a simple message: To protect their families, Christians must vote in the parliamentary elections that begin late this month. Otherwise, Egypt may be controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is mobilizing its own supporters.
“Muhammad and John need to live side by side,” admonished one of the speakers, arguing that Christians must fight for a secular state that will be moderate and tolerant. “If you don’t go vote, you have only yourself to blame for the consequences.”
Christians have “definitely” become more afraid since the revolution, explained Dina Beshay, a 29-year-old woman from the neighborhood. If the Muslim Brotherhood gained power, it would be a “big shock,” she said, because Christians would feel marginalized. “It is impossible for us to live in constant fear.”
This issue of sectarian tension lurks behind the election campaign now being waged across Egypt. People don’t often speak about it directly, but it’s an abiding fear here — as in most other countries shaken by the Arab Spring. The question is whether, as democracy empowers Islamist parties across the Arab world, Christian minorities will have a viable future.
The rally here was organized by the Free Egyptians Party, a secular, pro-market group founded by Naguib Sawiris, who is one of Egypt’s wealthiest businessmen and a prominent member of the Coptic minority. The party aims to get a turnout of 85 percent of the roughly 40,000 eligible voters in this district, who are mostly Copts.
Garbage City is an unforgettable spot, a vision that might have been imagined by a surrealistic movie director. Pickup trucks rumble in with towering loads of rubbish, which is picked over for anything that can be recycled. Fires burn across this trash landscape. Because garbage collection is seen by Muslims as “unclean” (garbage is fed to pigs), this work for untold generations has mostly been done by Christians, who labor in their gritty stalls surrounded by icons and crosses and posters of Jesus.
Source: Washington Post | David Ignatius