Interfaith Group Hails Christian-Muslim Cooperation in Egypt Revolution

Leaders from global interfaith group Religions for Peace have praised Egypt's Christian and Muslim citizens for being able to peacefully cooperate and demonstrate side by side during the recent political revolt.

"The people of Egypt have the heartfelt congratulations of Religions for Peace for their sustained and peaceful efforts at political self-determination," wrote Dr. William F. Vendley, general secretary of the group, in a letter released on Monday.

"It is especially noteworthy that Muslims, Christians and others worked together hand-in-hand in their shared desire for political change," he added.

The letter comes as Egypt is experiencing its first political transfer of power in nearly 30 years.

Former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Friday after hundreds of thousands of Egyptians protested for 18 days for his removal.

Ismael Serageldin, honorary President of Religions for Peace and Director of the Library of Alexandria, called the revolt 18 days that "shook the world," and saluted the Egyptian youth who "challenged all expectations and triumphed."

"The moral power of non-violence was never more ably deployed for the cause of more freedom, more justice and to lay the foundations of better tomorrows," Serageldin said.

"In these 18 days that shook the world, men and women, young and old, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor came together as never before. The army never unleashed a volley against any of the millions of demonstrators. All melded together and showed the true mettle of 'the people.' They redefined the meaning of Egyptian greatness," he added, noting that there was not one incident of sectarian violence or the burning of churches during the revolt.

"[I]ndeed we saw Christians and Muslims praying by the thousands in Tahrir square, each protecting and respecting the other."

But while interfaith solidarity helped remove Mubarak from power, rights for Egypt's Christian minority, which makes up about 10 percent of the country's population, could be threatened as radical extremist group the Muslim Brotherhood is poised assume control of the nation's government.

The Brotherhood is the only organized political group left standing following Mubarak's reign. If they were to take power, it is likely that conditions for Egypt's 9 million Christians, who have been discriminated against by Egypt's government and harassed by Muslim extremists, would not improve.

Currently, a political group called the Wasat Party (Center Party), which counts Christians as its members, is trying to stave off elections until more political stability is achieved. A ruling on whether the party will be formed is scheduled to take place on Saturday.

For Vendley, full respect of freedom of religion should be a centerpiece of Egypt's new government.

"The challenges that confront Egyptians are large. They deserve our prayers and principled solidarity, as they work to build their own public institutions on the basis of the values that are deeply shared by Muslims, Christians and all people of good will in Egypt," he writes.

Serageldin writes: "After the demonstrations, the battles and the celebrations in the streets, we must
now do the equally demanding work of designing new institutions, selecting new leaders and creating new laws -- to fashion the wise constraints that make people free."

"But I have unlimited confidence in Egypt's youth," he adds. "It is the dawn of a new day."

Established in 1970, Religions for Peace is one of the longest standing interfaith organizations independent from a particular faith group or denomination. The group's primary works are in promoting just and peaceful societies, protecting the environment, and advocating on behalf of children and the youth.

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