10/25/2014, 00.00
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Egypt, young Catholics: The revolution has been betrayed, but the future belongs to us

by Giulia Mazza inviato
Martine, 26, lives and works in Cairo. The problem of discrimination in Egypt comes from "well defined social classes". The lessons of equality, respect and compassion in Christian schools "are a benefit for Muslim students." The 2011 riots "were stolen from the Egyptians" by other countries and (in part) by the military". It will take 50 years to erase the mistakes of the past."

Cairo (AsiaNews) - "A more democratic and cleaner Egypt - clean of corruption, waste, pollution, traffic - where health and education are priorities. Because if the environment in which we live debilitates the body, productivity and economy we will all suffer. Education alone helps people to be more creative, civilized, to have new ideas and to respect those of others". 26 year old Martine, a Greek-Catholic, has clear ideas on how she wants the future of her country to be. She graduated in economics and political science at Cairo University, and after one year of study in France, now works as a project manager in an American company. Unfortunately, however, she adds to AsiaNews, "it will take some time to achieve this, and people have to be patient. In Egypt we have learned to take the easy way out and that is why we are struggling now because there is no easy way out of our problems. "

Martine (pictured second from left) comes from a good family background and has never had particularly negative experiences with people of Islamic faith. "The question - she says - is that social classes in Egypt are very defined. The background you come from and where you grow up affects the very person you will become. I was born and live in Heliopolis, which is a quiet neighborhood of the city, I attended Christian institutions and many of my classmates were Muslims. At school we were taught equality; that there is no difference between human beings, to be compassionate, to respect each other's religions and ideas". This, she explains, "was translated into very simple gestures. During the fasting month of Ramadan, we Christians ate discreetly. At big holidays such as Christmas or Easter, Muslims attended in the Mass, in respect and to show that in our school we were one family".

The only unpleasant memory she has had since childhood dates back to when she was seven. "I took tennis lessons - she says - and a friend of mine was Muslim. One day she came to me and said, 'I'm sad, because you'll go to hell'. I asked her why. She said, 'because are you a Christian and my parents said that Christians will go to hell '. I ran home to my mother in tears, who told me that it was not true and that I could no longer be her friend". In retrospect, Martine admits that what her mother told her "was also wrong. If it had happened later, I would have explained what it means to be a Christian, that what we believe is full of love, and that even if the 'paths' of our two religions are different, we both believe in God".

If the place where you live, as in Martine's case, means you grow up in a sort of "bubble", sooner or later you come face to face with reality. In her case this was at university. "I was in the French department - she said - which is twinned with other universities in France. My classmates came from similar backgrounds to mine. But when I attended the classes in Arabic, I met very different people from me: some came from closed social circles, others had studied at home. Others had never met a Christian and thought that we believed in three gods. I also received leaflets advising the girls to wear the veil, to be closer to God".

Martine's young adulthood,  as many of her peers, is inevitably marked by what has happened in the last three years. She recalls the first period of democratic revolution, which began January 25, 2011, as "a nightmare." "Mubarak was president of Egypt all my life" - she explains. "He was part of my everyday life. University, however, especially when I started studying economics and political science, opened my mind and changed the way I saw what was happening in my country. I saw a dictatorship, and many injustices. In 2011 I was particularly furious because the last parliamentary elections [2010 ed] Mubarak's party won 98% of the seats. This not only proved the obvious corruption but also the authority's complete lack of effort to even try to deceive the people of Egypt. When I spoke about it with my French friends, I was ashamed and angry".

Then, something changed. In a church in Alexandria, an explosion killed several Christians, including Martine's friends. Meanwhile, videos were posted on Facebook and social media of people being tortured in police stations. "The people - she explains - and especially young people, begin to realize what was happening and no longer wanted to stand by in silence like their parents' generation. The older people wanted security, young people wanted a future."  

What happened after the fall of Mubarak, Martine was "confused, unclear and made no sense". While recognizing the democratic spirit of the revolts which started January 25, 2011, in her opinion the Egyptian "revolution was betrayed" by the "many other actors who benefited from the end of the regime and instability in Egypt". National figures who seemed to have a more liberal and more open-minded ideology, like Mohamed ElBaradei, "were not strong enough to fight".

What is certain, is the constant presence - even if behind the scenes - of the military: "The army has played its part since the very first revolution. I doubt that Mubarak resigned in response to the demands of his people. I think, the military allowed the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsi win the first democratic elections in 2011. As if the only way to show the world what they were really capable of, was to give them power".

In fact, "they won, made a lot of mistakes and eventually fell, but not because of another revolution. The Tamarod movement that brought more than 30 million people in the streets to get rid of the Morsi government was a 'soft revolution'. The only party capable of quickly responding to the demands of the population was the army. It would have been a real revolution if the military authorities had played the role of mediator, facilitating the removal of Morsi and ferrying the country toward free elections, with a president chosen by the people and for the people".

This was not to be, instead the current president is the former General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who abandoned his military positions before running for office.

The betrayal of the revolution, says Martine, "is not represented by al-Sisi as such, but by what he represents, namely the return to an ideology in which the military authorities hold power. In the last election, I voted with a blank sheet, because I was not convinced by any of the candidates and I was afraid of the power of the army. I am honest: today I have less fear, and while I still see things I do not like I want to give this government a chance, to do some good". However, a fundamental problem remains: "In fact, while recognizing their experience, we have the same people, the same faces, the same problems as before. Egypt needs its young people, new languages ​​and new ideas. It will take at least 50 years to erase all the mistakes of the past. If you continue to treat the same disease with the same medicine, and see that it does not improve, then maybe it is time to change medicine".


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