A Faithful Word

Living in the Light of God's Love

Hesham A. Hassaballa

Hesham A. Hassaballa
Location
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Birthday
July 08
Bio
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago doctor and writer. He has written extensively on a freelance basis, being published in newspapers across the country and around the world. His articles have been distributed world wide by Agence Global as well. He has been a Beliefnet columnist since 2001, and has written for the Religion News Service. He is also a guest blogger for The Chicago Tribune. Dr. Hassaballa is author of the essay "Why I Love the Ten Commandments," published in the award-winning book Taking Back Islam (Rodale). He is also co-author of The Beliefnet Guide to Islam (Doubleday). His latest book of poetry about the Prophet Muhammad, Noble Brother, has been published by Faithful Word Press. In 2007, his blog, God, Faith, and a Pen, was nominated for a Brass Crescent Award for a blog that is "the most stimulating, insightful, and philosophical, providing the best rebuttals to extremist ideology and making an impact whenever they post."

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FEBRUARY 7, 2011 10:13AM

The Inter-Faith Revolution

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Thanks be to the Precious Beloved, this article was published on Middle East Online.

 

The events and images coming out of Egypt in the last two weeks have been nothing short of extraordinary. I have never been more inspired by seeing ordinary Egyptians – young and old, rich and poor, man and woman — finally stand up to the brutality of a dictator who has ruled for over three decades. Despite the vicious crackdown by police, the letting loose of criminals to wreak havoc, the attack of paid “Rent-A-Thugs” on innocent and peaceful protesters, and the attempt to silence the international media, the people of Egypt have not backed down. I have never been more proud to share their ancestry.

Yet, perhaps the most awe-inspiring images to come out of Egypt occurred on February 4, dubbed the “Day of Departure” by Egyptian protesters. In Alexandria, Christian Egyptians stood together — hand in hand — and formed a human chain to protect their fellow Muslim Egyptians as they prayed their weekly Friday prayers in the street. This in the very same city — about a month before — where a Christian church was viciously bombed by terrorists seeking to foment sectarian strife and violence in Egypt. It seemed that they returned the favor of the Muslims who came out on the Coptic Christmas and formed human chains to protect their Christian brethren as they celebrated.

On February 6, dubbed the “Day of the Martyrs,” Egyptian Muslims and Christians each performed prayers for those who have been killed during the uprising in Cairo. According to Al Jazeera, people were chanting, “Muslims and Copts [Christians] hand in hand for a new dawn to rise” in Tahrir [Liberation] Square, the center of the protests. A woman named Nadia tweeted, “Off to Tahrir to attend Christian mass. My father — a 73-yr-old ill, bearded conservative Muslim — is with me.”

These extraordinary images and events belie the contention of some who claim that Muslims and Christians cannot live and work together in peace in the Muslim world. Yes, there have been truly horrific attacks on Christians in the Middle East, such as the brutal attack in Iraq. Yes, there is no denying that there has been tension between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. But, as recent events have shown, their unity as Egyptians in the face of a brutal dictatorial regime far outweighs any differences in faith. When all is said and done, they are all Egyptians, Muslim and Christian alike.

Such events have also occurred here in the United States. In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, local Christians in the Chicago area formed a human chain around a mosque, so that the Muslims on their way to Friday prayers were safe from reprisal attacks. It was a powerful moment of heart-warming unity that has, sadly, faded as the years passed after September 11. Indeed, it is natural for people to come together in times of crisis, such as the attacks of 9/11, the uprising in Egypt, and the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona.

Yet, we do not need to wait until after a crisis to come together. It is my hope and prayer that the images of interfaith unity that are coming out of Egypt inspire us to come together as a people, regardless of our faith traditions. All across this country, mosques have been attacked and even firebombed, just as churches were during the civil rights struggle. In countless communities where plans for mosques have been drawn up, there has been fierce resistance by some in the community, sometimes going so far as setting fire to construction equipment.

But, if Christian Egyptians can come together and form a human chain around their Muslim neighbors to protect them, we can do the same here. If Muslim Egyptians can show up on Christmas Eve and form human chains around churches to show their Christian neighbors that they are there for them, then we can do the same here. In fact, we should form our own “human chains” around all our communities, to protect them from the forces of hatred and bigotry that are working hard to divide this country and tear it apart. In Egypt, they are saying, “We are all Egyptians.” We must never forget that, each and every day, no matter what our background, we are all Americans.

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Dr. Hassaballa,

I will share your optimism about the depth and steadfastness of this inter-faith effort when I see the crowds protecting a synagogue.

Lew
Weren't Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak all Muslims? Are the Muslims being attacked so saintly? Are they Sufis, Sikhs? Yeah, that's right a religious distinction can't give you claim to sainthood but many Christians in America claim this same kind of oppression and they are neanderthals.
I'm glad Muslims and Coptic Christians are working together, don't get me wrong but I don't know much about it. Aren't Coptics and mystical group? I have heard of the Ethiopian Coptic Church, being Ethiopian, of course, its representative are black. But the Egyptian I haven't heard of.
There was once a great library in Alexandria in Egypt. I have learned that Jesus once visited it with 2 Indian friends he met before his public work. They studied there the great religions of the world.
Wonderful, Hesham. I felt the same way watching this on the news. It's all very inspiring, something all humanity could learn from.

To Eddie and The traveller: I am not a historian, but I do believe that Muslims have, in the past, protected synagogues. In Islamic Spain, for instance. I'm sure there are more contemporary examples, too. In former Yugoslavia, especially in Sarajevo, Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together in harmony. In Egypt, where I lived and worked for a year, I met many Muslims and Christians who worked and socialized with each other. Before the founding of Israel, Jewish, Muslim and Christian Egyptians lived in Alexandria and Cairo in, I believe, relative harmony. Nothing is perfect anywhere. I'm sure Hesham knows a lot more about all this than I do.
@lizw9

The Muslims were last in power in Spain in 1492.

I would be more comfortable with a more proximate expression of brotherhood.
Years ago I worked closely with an Egyptian Coptic Christian. I learned that the relationship has not always been easy, but I also know that the Muslims and Christians have lived next to each other for centuries; long enough to understand each other. It is hard to hate a neighbor that you know and respect. I hope what we are seeing is the future of Egypt.
Traveler, I certainly would not begin to suggest that Jews have been treated well in Egypt, most especially since 1948. That said there have been synagogues in Egypt since 882 A.D. when Ben Ezra was established. It is still there today. I remember being so shocked when I found it while meandering through the streets of Cairo's Old City while visitng in 1969 on vacation from my Peace Corps assignment in nearby Libya.

Very recent blogs have indicated that the army and police are protecting this synagogue and at least one other one in Alexandria (at least until very recently). In any case there have been no attacks to date on these synagogues. Of course, the future is an open book, and this is a scary time in Egypt. Bit it is also a hopeful time, and it might be well for us to break away from Fox news stereotypes of deranged Muslims attacking Jews and Christians.

Egypt is a large, multi-faceted country and though most Egyptians may not care for an Israel they see as a well armed Goliah, they have kept the peace for 30 years with them. We can only hope the moderates (the majority) will be able to persevere.

Check out this blog for more on Egypts's Jews and synagagouges: http://jewishrefugees.blogspot.com/2011/01/synagogues-in-egypt-are-safe-but-police.html
A pertinent and beautiful post. I had not heard this side of the story. Thanks for sharing it.
My friend,

You have me in tears of joy. I beliee with all of my heart that the healing that the world needs lies in the hearts of all.

The World's Peoples should be humbled by the example that Egyptians set for civilized behavior. Since the Egpytian Muslims embraced the Coptic Christians when their church was bombed (and there is an investigation, I hear, that the govt had a hand in it), everyone should have seen what kind of excellent character this People possess.

Blessing upon them!

(Hoping and praying that your extended family are safe.)
Egypt is Free! Mubarak has stepped down!

Praise to God! Praise to the People!