A group of Christian youth activists that came together in the tumultuous aftermath of the Egyptian revolution is looking to the future and hoping to build on the gains wrought in Tahrir Square by mobilizing young people to better advocate for themselves.
“One of the main things is that people started to speak,” said Mina Elkess, a 28-year-old ophthalmologist and one of the group’s leaders.
Since the revolution, Christians have begun participating more directly in the political process, a primary goal of the Maspero Youth Union, which celebrated its third anniversary on Wednesday (March 5).
The group, formed to fight for civil rights, rejects the mostly passive role Christian Copts played before the revolution, when the church’s patriarch served as proxy for the Coptic community in all matters political. It targets younger people — a powerful force in a nation where more than half the population is under 25 — and teaches them to advocate for their rights.
The union was born in the aftermath of a torching of a church in a village on the southern outskirts of Cairo. That church burning prompted large demonstrations in Cairo outside the Maspero, the state television building. The union takes its name from the peaceful demonstrations held there.
Later demonstrations on Oct. 9, 2011, turned deadly, when armored personnel carriers moved in and soldiers opened fire on peaceful demonstrators. At least two dozen people were killed — including members of the youth union — and more than 300 were injured.
After that, Christians were understandably afraid of political engagement and largely withdrew from civic life. But that changed, Elkess said, when the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Morsi was elected president.
“Since Morsi, many Copts wanted to be involved,” Elkess said. “A lot of Copts feared what the Muslim Brotherhood would do.”
The church has welcomed this renewed enthusiasm for political engagement. When representatives from the union came to talk to Bishop Moussa, the church’s bishop for youth, he gently pushed them away, like a mother bird nudging her offspring out of the nest.
“Why are you asking me?” Moussa asked. “You are mature enough. Take your stand.”
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SOURCE: Religion News Service