02/04/2011, 00.00
ISLAM - EGYPT

Bishops of North Africa: Egypt and Tunisia claiming freedom and dignity

The Bishops of Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Western Sahara appreciate demonstrations by young people. They are an opportunity for dialogue between Christians and Muslims. So far the demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia have not taken on Islamist connotations.

Algiers (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The demonstrations that are "shaking Tunisia and Egypt today" are "a vindication of freedom and dignity" in the opinion of the Conference of Bishops of North Africa (CERNA).  The group published a statement last night at the conclusion of their annual meeting, held in the Algerian capital.

CERNA includes the bishops of Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Western Sahara. Yesterday's was their first public pronunciation on what is happening in the Arab countries of North Africa, where popular demonstrations, driven by poverty and corruption of dictatorships are shaking political systems. Stressing the "demands for freedom and dignity," the bishops make no difference between Muslims and Christians. For them, it comes "especially from the younger generations of our region and is expressed in a will that demands they be recognized as responsible citizens."

The astonishing fact for many international observers is that the demonstrations that have taken place in Tunisia and Egypt see Christians and Muslims protest together. Their unity is a "secular" one and is based on together being victims of poverty, high prices, corruption, unemployment. In their statement the bishops do not comment on the recent anti-Christian attacks in Egypt and Iraq, and instead see "more and more opportunities" for growth of ties between Christians and Muslims as citizens. "Yes - they say - Muslim-Christian dialogue is possible."

In Egypt, Coptic Christians appear next to young Muslims, although the Coptic Orthodox hierarchy has suggested the faithful "keep calm".

So far, the demonstrations in Cairo have not taken on an Islamist hue. According to many young Copts, the Islamist threat was exploited - and nurtured- by the Mubarak regime to divide the population and control it.

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