I spent a few hours this week speaking with local Egyptians about the massive uprising in their ancestral lands. Many were hopeful that a new government would replace Hosni Mubarak. Egypt has been aided by the United States for decades, but those funds haven’t trickled down to the masses, angering the poor, the underpaid college graduates, the middle class, and the religious minorities. Still, those I spoke with were Copts, who were cautious about the demonstrations. In the last decade, Coptic Christians have been targeted by religious extremists, their churches bombed and their people kidnapped and killed. Their fear is that an Islamic extremist will take over for Mubarak. Whatever the result, this upheaval has made many Egyptians proud of their countrymen for raising their voice and supporting democracy. From my story (Daily News, Jan. 2011):
NORTHRIDGE – On the first Sunday after the uprisings, Father Bishoy Aziz clasped his hands inside a Northridge church and recited ancient prayers for a modern Egypt.
He asked for peace to come to his homeland, where for days, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have crammed into Tahrir Square, raised their voices and fists, and demanded the resignation of longtime President Hosni Mubarak.
He prayed for the safety of both Christians and Muslims, who have lived side by side for centuries, and urged them to protect each other during the turmoil. And he, like many members of the church, hoped a new Egyptian government would embrace human rights for all.
“We love our country very much,” said Aziz, a reverend of St. Mary and St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church. “I am a U.S. citizen, but Egypt lives in all our hearts.”
For Aziz and his congregation, the youth-driven demonstrations that began last Tuesday have exposed deep-seeded anger and frustration toward an American-backed government that many say has done little to help the vast majority of Egyptians.