The cliché of the conflict of civilizations and religious wars. Daesh targets Christians, but also coexistence between Christians and Muslims. Al Sisi’s struggle for full citizenship of Christians in Egypt. Al Azhar and condemnation of fundamentalism. The West sells weapons to the Middle East, which end up in the hands of the Islamic State. Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address needs to be reconsidered.
Rome (AsiaNews) - In the aftermath of bloody Palm Sunday in Egypt, several comments are being modeled on fashionable clichés: there is an open conflict of civilizations, an ongoing religious war between Muslims and Christians.
These interpretations may have some truth. Not a day goes by without news of some Islamic communities resistance – even by means of force - to the modernization brought by the Western world from how people dress, or use their time, to ways of educating. And not a day goes by - and this has been the case for years in Egypt – without Christians being killed at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who dismiss these faithful as "unbelievers" and therefore only worthy to be either converted or eliminated. Throwing gasoline on the fire, Daesh (the Islamic State) has long decreed the eradication of Christians from the Middle East because of their "polluting" power on Arab culture.
But it is a giant step, and a wrong one, to go from here to urgently demanding a new crusade. First, because there are often also Muslim victims in the attacks against Christians. And many of the people who rushed to donate blood yesterday to save the lives of the wounded in the two attacks on the churches of Tanta and Alexandria were also Muslims. Above all, it fails to take into account that Daesh is not just targeting Christians, but their successful coexistence with Muslims. Former General al-Sisi has been pressing for an Egyptian society where Christians and Muslims have the same rights and duties; where the procedures to build churches and mosques are the same; where there are the same career opportunities in society and in the army for the faithful of the two religions. Al-Sisi’s success in this field would be a revolution in the Arab world, given the importance of Egypt, from the numerical and cultural point of view.
Al-Sisi’s influence is such that even the Al Azhar University, often divided between modernity and dependence on Saudi funding, is moving to condemn the literalist interpretation of the Koran, at the root of Daesh and Saudi Wahhabism.
The cliché we have mentioned, if they have any truth at all, take no account of the many positive movements in the Islamic and Middle Eastern world. But above all they conceal one fact: the responsibility of the Western world. Condemning Daesh, condemning fundamentalist Islam is not the whole truth. Yesterday at the Angelus Pope Francis, on receiving the news of the attack on the church of Tanta, expressed his "deepest condolences" to his "dear brother, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic Church and to all the dear Egyptian nation" and added "the Lord turn the hearts of the people who are sowing terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who do and are trafficking weapons."
If we do not want to manipulate the pope's words, then we must remember that the Western world is trying to rehabilitate its creaking economy through arms sales to those very countries that in one way or another are responsible for the massacre of Christians.
According to data of the 2016 SIPRI report (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), to date the largest arms exporters are the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany. They represent 74% of the total volume of exports in the world. At least half of their armaments were destined for the Middle East. In 2015, Saudi Arabia saw an increase of 275% on imports of weapons compared to 2006-2010; Qatar, an increase of 279%. Both of these two countries - along with others - are known for their support for the "rebellion" against Assad as well as al Qaeda and Daesh.
Therefore the West is also responsible for the killings of Christians and its scandal at all that Daesh does is somewhat farcical if it fails to support the cultural and social dialogue between Christians and Muslims and curb the arms race in the Middle Orient.
Many experts and opinionists continue to quote Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address, when the Pope suggested to the Islamic world to contend with reason and violence. But they forget that most of that speech was addressed to the West which in despising religious reasoning, has been locked up in a materialistic model, where only numbers and money count. Even those of weapons.
A few weeks ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Egypt, the most influential Sunni university has defended equal rights for Christians and Muslims. But in the Arab-Islamic world, religious minorities suffer. All Constitutions impose restrictions: prohibition of community gatherings; to change one's religion; to assume high government office. Marginalization is leading to the flight of Christians from the Middle East.
Four significant moments marked the first day of Francis in Egypt. Admiration and appreciation for the courage shown by the pontiff: "Thank you for having risked your security for us." And some would like an Egyptian capital, as it is today, "clean, uncrowded and of a particular beauty. Reminiscent of the past."
To mark his upcoming visit to the country (28-29 April), Pope Francis today sent a video message to the Egyptian people. " Our world, torn by blind violence, which has also afflicted the heart of your dear land – needs peace, love and mercy; it needs workers for peace. "
Plans for Pope to tour among faithful in a golf car. The theme of the visit is "The Pope of Peace in Egypt of Peace". After visiting Al-Sisi and the great imam of Al Azhar, Francis will participate in the International Peace Conference organized by Al Tayyeb. A prayer for the martyrs of terrorism near the Coptic cathedral, where there was an attack in December. A meeting with the children of Cairo and with young pilgrims.
Over the weekend a Vatican delegation meets with the Egyptian president. Al Sisi’s "great esteem" for Pope Francis. The visit to the President, the Coptic Patriarch, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar. An ecumenical meeting and prayer for the martyrs next to St. Mark's Cathedral, where three months ago a bomb attack took place. Meetings with Catholics. The press broke the news, but without comment. The silence of the Salafis.