Egypt Rejoices, But What Comes Next?

 Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak

This is an historic moment. A few hours ago, President Hosni Mubarak resigned after thirtyyears of apparently untouchable rule. He took what was perhaps his last opportunity to depart with dignity. No one can deny that he has done much that is good for his people over the decades, regardless of the damage that he also presided over. Our Lord, who is the true judge of hearts, will no doubt deal with him with justice and mercy.

The great thing about this change in Egypt is that it took place largely peacefully and it was not engineered by foreigners, the army, Islamic radicals or any other narrow interest. It came about because the people of Egypt finally found their voice.

The 1952 Egyptian Revolution that ousted the monarchy began with great idealism. Opinion is divided as to how closely its leaders adhered to that idealism, although most would agree that Egypt has degenerated rather than improved over the past sixty years. This time, there are no obvious leaders like Gamal Abd El Nasser to garner the love and trust of the people and turn it into dictatorship. Perhaps this time Egypt will give birth to a system rather than a leader, a far more stable and beneficial state of affairs!

I cannot help feeling a deep thrill of joy today. Justice has triumphed over injustice. Freedom has triumphed over the police state. The common man has triumphed over the despot. The youth of Egypt feel they have a future again, and the enthusiasm of youth is a powerful force.

Though so many rejoice today, tomorrow the real task begins. This momentous change must not be allowed to be hijacked by narrow interests for their own benefit – the people of Egypt have suffered far too long from the rule of the selfish. All those public spirited people who have come out of the wood work need to organise themselves and find from their number men and women who are both capable and willing to serve their land with faithfulness and integrity.

‘Freedom!’ is the call of all the protesters. I dare to hope that as the Egyptian people begin to explore and construct their freedom over the coming years, they will move towards making Egypt a genuinely free land. That includes the freedom to practice one’s religion without discrimination or persecution. Perhaps even the freedom to change one’s religion without coercion. The older generation of Muslims is mired in the mindset of the supremacy of Islam and the shameful horror of apostasy. Is it a fantasy to hope that the younger generation of Muslims, imbued with more liberal principles absorbed from their exposure to other cultures via technology, might be more willing to grant true freedom to their Christian co-citizens?

If this historic achievement of the people of Egypt is any indication, Egypt is capable of developing into one of the leading nations in the international community. If the Egyptian people are set free to attain their true potential, who knows what they might not be able to do?

Egypt stands at the beginning of a dangerous tightrope walk. The possibility of toppling off lies on both sides. No doubt many winds will buffet her as she takes her cautious small steps forward, and there will be voices jeering as well as cheering. Let us pray that the marvellous sense of balance she has shown this past eighteen days will carry her through to the other end…

Fr Ant

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