Posted by: smstrouse | February 11, 2011

Praying in Cairo: The Best of Interfaith Cooperation

As of Thursday night things were tense in Cairo. President Hosni Mubarak had not stepped down as protesters had demanded. The hopes and prayers of people around the world were that demonstrations would remain non-violent and that there would be a peaceful resolution. They did and there was.

It remains to be seen how the future of Egypt will unfold. One incident, in the midst of the political turmoil, however, is enough to give us all hope. And I hope that it will not be forgotten. Last Friday, Christian protesters in Tahrir Square joined hands and formed a protective circle around Muslim protesters, assuring their safety as they conducted their prayers. Then on Sunday, the Muslims did the same for the Christians, surrounding their worship service in the central plaza.

Rev. Ihab al-Kharat spoke to the crowd: “In the name of Jesus and Muhammed, we unify our rank.”  Later, the crowd of both Muslims and Christians chanted “one hand” – meaning “we are one” – and held up a Cross and a Qur’an.

This is interfaith cooperation at its best: people of two religions, each group maintaining its unique identity, yet each respecting and supporting the other and coming together in a common cause.

In these days of Islamophobia, some of the worst of it coming from conservative Christians, it’s encouraging to see such a public display of interfaith cooperation.  It’s the antithesis of hateful incidents such as Franklin Graham saying that Islam ‘is a religion of hatred, a religion of war.’

Ignorance and misinformation about Islam abounds.  Ignorance and misinformation about Christianity abounds as well. It’s a sad commentary that a progressive congregation like ours has to have a debate about whether or not to include ‘Christian’ in its name – not because we don’t want to be Christian, but because we don’t want to be identified with the kind of Christianity that cannot accept the validity of other religious traditions.

So the picture of a Cross and a Qur’an being lifted up together, with people of good will of both faiths chanting ‘we are one,’ is a piece of the picture of the in-breaking realm of God. We need to see more pictures like that.

It’s still uncertain what will happen in Egypt in the days ahead. But there was a glimmer of hope for all of us in the midst of the prayers of the people.  My prayers are with them too.

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