Egypt marks first Easter after Mursi
Last year, calls from Islamic hardliners threatened to derail future celebrations
Coptic Egyptians this year celebrate their first Easter after the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammad Mursi, in what they deemed as a better atmosphere for festivities, laden with hope for a less polarized nation.
Most Egyptians - Muslims and Christians alike - celebrate on Sunday and Monday the national holidays of Easter and the beginning of the spring season, dubbed as Sham al-Nessim.
“These days are not only celebrated by us only, it’s for all Egyptians to rejoice,” Mirna Sami, a Coptic Egyptian residing in the United Arab Emirates told Al Arabiya News.
Sameh Mahrous, a Coptic Christian and deputy editor-in-chief of Egypt’s al-Gomhoreya newspaper, said “the atmosphere is much better than last year despite the hardships Egypt is going through.”
Mahrous said Muslims and Christians are enjoying this year’s celebrations in the absence of intolerant voices that would call for the cancellation of Easter and Spring celebrations.
Such calls mainly stemmed from hardline Muslim preachers, who at the time affiliated themselves with Mursi, who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Last year’s extremist religious edicts prohibiting Muslims from greeting Copts on Easter are absent this time,” said Mahrous. “To a certain extent, we begin seeing a difference, extremist voices are fading.”
Elections and celebrations
As the election season makes it hard for Egyptians to avoid politics even during festivities, the country’s presidential candidates are making sure they remain part of the Coptic celebration scene.
Egypt prepares for its leadership contest next month. The two main presidential candidates, former army general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi, had visited Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church a day before Easter.
According to Mahrous, the Coptic community’s votes will not be determined by such social courtesies.
“Honestly, we know these initiatives are politically motivated,” he said. “The whole world watches the mass and political candidates will take it as a chance to appear. These initiatives will have no power on a Coptic votes.”
Sami said although Sisi is expected to garner many of the Coptic votes, such moves can have an effect on many Egyptians.
“Most Christians favor Sisi,” Sami said, “because he promised to protect all Egyptians, and especially Christians… [however] greetings by presidential candidates are now understood to be part of political campaigning to gain out votes.”
To Sami, her family, and many of her relatives, marking Easter on Sunday without receiving the news of explosions or attacks in Egypt makes them enjoy their day even more.
After the 2011 and 2013 uprisings, the country has been subject to several attacks from militants over the past few months, since the army removed Mursi from power last July.
But even before that, Coptic Egyptians have never forgotten incidents where churches or Christians have been subjected to violent attacks.
Sami told Al Arabiya News she hopes that the upcoming period would lead to a restoration of security in the country and help establish a society that is more coherent and religiously tolerant.
“I hope that any winner in the election race would ensure that security is restored and extremism is less prevailing,” she said.
“Politics has divided Egyptians apart, and whoever wins, has to bring us all back together.”