I hope they have a future,” says Sister Joanna
with a smile. Standing inside the small chapel of a Catholic school near Cairo, the petite
Egyptian nun gazes outward, thinking. The four walls of Immaculate Heart
School offer a refuge from
revolutionary chaos, providing a safe place where young women have an
opportunity to learn and grow. Eventually, equipped only with their education
and faith, Sister Joanna’s students will leave, rushing back into the fog of an
uncertain tomorrow. She adds, “What they see now is all black.” (For reasons of
safety, this article uses pseudonyms for the school, students, and staff.)
flourishing city of 18 million has grown tense and, at times, unwelcoming in
the violent wake of the Arab Spring. Horrific stories of virginity tests,
violent protests, unrestrained mob attacks, brutal religious killings, and
kidnappings abound in daily conversation.
“It is rough for the revolution, for
those who made the revolution,” Sister Joanna continues. “You can feel others
want to destroy this revolution for the young. Young people want many, many
things. They want to live their future. You can see their hands are empty. They
need to grab something; they can’t grab anything with the situation they have
now. Many, many of them have lost their way.”
Egypt’s future remains in doubt.
Power struggles abound as the military vies for control, an elected parliament
is dissolved, and a formal constitution needs to be written. A small ray of
hope emerged in June 2012 with Egypt’s
first democratically elected president, Muhammad Morsi. However, Morsi’s
relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood makes many Egyptians nervous,
especially Christians. Since its inception in 1928, the Brotherhood has had
strained relationships with Christians.
While institutionalized discrimination toward
Christians existed throughout Hosni Mubarak’s administration (1981–2011),
particularly in terms of hiring and land-use practices, prospects for unity
between Christians and the Muslim majority have since deteriorated. Open
conflict and bloodshed have replaced security.