In October, 2005, during the month of Ramadan, an explosive CD began circulating in universities in Egypt. Labeled "A Present for the Feast", the CD held a video of a play put on two years earlier in a Coptic church in Alexandria.
The play centered around the story of a Copt who converted to Islam and then wanted to convert back, and contained messages many Muslims found offensive. On Friday, October 21, Muslims from around the country gathered in Alexandria and attempted to attack the church where the play had been put on. Confronted by police barricades and a harsh security response, the violent protests turned elsewhere, vandalizing Christian-owned storefronts and torching undefended churches.
The events in Alexandria are only the latest in a long series of disturbances between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. Members of both faith groups have taken to the streets in recent years in response to perceived insults to their religion, and more than once this has resulted in violence. Responding to the ongoing tensions, the Arab Group for Christian-Muslim Dialogue, in cooperation with the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue, will hold a special meeting of the group in Cairo on December 19-20, 2005.
At the meeting, Arab Group founding member Muhammad Salim al-Awwa will present a "code of conduct for times of tension" developed to help individuals and institutions respond in a locally effective and credible way to such events.
The Arab Group, founded in 1995, is a regional organization bringing together local Christians and Muslims to develop effective, coherent and locally legitimate approaches to interfaith dialogue and to common problems faced by both religions. After a long period of dialogue, it produced in 2001 "Dialogue and Coexistence: An Arab Muslim-Christian Covenant" which outlines a code of conduct for dialogue according to the region's specific needs.
The Group organized a well-recevied meeting in Sudan among Sudanese Muslims and Christians in 2003, and has previously discussed questions of coexistence and religious tension at a meeting in Egypt in 2000. Its website can be found at www.agmcd.org.
The Forum for Development, Cooperation and Dialogue focuses on encouraging grass-roots reconciliation. It is a founding member of the Arab Partnership for Conflict Prevention and Human Security. It previously cooperated with the Arab Group on a Muslim-Chrsitian study camp in the summer of 2005. Its website can be found at www.fdcd.org.