By Julie Webb-Pullman
Hundreds of New Zealanders gathered on Friday evening in capital city Wellington’s Civic Square together with Christian and Muslim leaders, to express solidarity with the people of Egypt, and to denounce the brutality of the military regime headed by General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.
Beneath banners bearing R4BIA, the “four-fingered salute” symbolizing solidarity with those massacred at the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp, the Muslims present prayed the maghrib prayer led by Sheikh Khalid, followed by a prayer for the dead, and for Egypt.
“I ask God – the Mighty and Majestic – by His Beautiful Names and Lofty Attributes to spare the blood of the people of Egypt and to remove the calamity, and to grant the people of Egypt security and peace,” prayed Sheik Khalid, originally from Egypt.
Father Gerard Burns, a Roman Catholic priest based in Wellington, told the crowd that he was pleased to join with others to remember all those killed in the recent violence in Egypt.
“While I have a special connection and concern for the Christian communities in Egypt, I wanted to pray and to stand up for all the people of Egypt,” he said, pointing out that Muslims are the most impoverished, and bear the brunt of the prevailing distress.
As the crowd pressed closer to hear, both leaders gave speeches about the situation in Egypt.
“Military governments and military repression are no solution to the challenges that Egypt faces,” Father Burns told them.
Sheikh Khalid affirmed that “There is no doubt that all of us will be happy with every effort that spares the blood of any human being and removes this great evil. And there is no doubt that I say: that which is obligatory upon the people of Egypt is that they strive to prevent bloodshed, this is not the time to be angry, it is time to show patience.”
“With all the uncertainty in Egypt these days, the only thing that seems certain is that whoever is on the truth will prevail at the end of the day,” he added. “My sincere request to all people, please don’t be biased against the Muslim of Egypt, think about the poor of the country whose hopes of at least progressing economically are lost.”
After their speeches, others spoke about the situation of Muslims everywhere, noting that they make up the greatest percentage of refugees internationally, and calling for more respect and tolerance, but also for an end to them being driven from their homes. Local activist Nadia Abu-Shanab read a poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, then candles were lit to commemorate the dead, and the many children present arranged them in the shape of the R4BIA symbol.
As Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists mingled together discussing their concerns, their similarities and their differences beneath the symbol of solidarity for the Egyptian protestors, it was clear that peaceful coexistence IS possible, and Sheikh Khalid’s hopes are attainable.
“Egypt deserves better, and I know for sure that she’ll get it sooner than we think,” he concluded.
– Julie Webb-Pullman contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.