Tonight Rebecca and I went to the Two Saints Church (the Church of Saint Mark and Pope Peter) in the Sidi Beshr district of Alexandria. One year ago, a bomb exploded outside the church as worshippers celebrated the arrival of the New Year—this level of violence is extremely rare in Egypt and it remains unclear who the perpetrators were. Although we weren’t allowed into the service (due to large crowds, no one without an ID was allowed inside), we were impressed by the hundreds of Muslims who came to stand outside the church in a demonstration of solidarity. “In Egypt, we are not Christians and Muslims, we are Egyptians,” they told, emphasizing that unity is the norm, not the exception. These Egyptians, from various political and social backgrounds, representing a broad age range, came to express their desire for national unity.
Some people held signs, one or two waved Egyptian flags, many lit memorial candles for the victims. One young woman who lives near the church recounted her experience the night of the bombing, one year ago. She told us that, although there were many fireworks going off, when she heard the bomb she knew it was something different. Although she knew it might not have been safe, she immediately made her way to the scene, weeping, doing her best to help move the victims to a local hospital.
It was inspiring to see these Egyptians coming together so courageously and to hear their stories and expressions of the importance of interfaith unity. Egypt is for all Egyptians—may their voice be heard!