Posted by: Titus Presler | February 11, 2011

Obama recognizes inter-faith dimension of Egypt’s pro-democracy movement

It was heartening that the religious dimension of the popular movement for change in Egypt was recognized by President Barack Obama in this afternoon’s speech in the aftermath of the resignation of Hosni Murbarak as President of Egypt:

We saw people of faith praying together and chanting, Muslims, Christians, we are one. And though we know that the strains between faiths still divide too many in this world, and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes remind us that we need not be defined by our differences; we can be defined by the common humanity that we share.

Many have testified to how Muslims and Christians have struggled in solidarity with one another during the last 18 days of protests, even prayed and worshiped together.  It would have been easy for Obama’s speech to have omitted any mention of the mutual solidarity, but that aspect of the movement was given a whole paragraph.

The president’s insistence that we need not be defined by our differences, including our religious differences, does not imply that religious difference is unimportant or trivial.  Instead, he was rightly stressing that religious difference should not divide people in the struggle for justice, nor should religious difference become a pretext for the violence that inherently treats the person of a different as less worthy of respect, less worth listening to, less than fully human.

Obama’s remarks also document that religious freedom is important to the United States as a matter of foreign policy, as it should be for any nation of the world.  The Christian minority in Egypt has felt under pressure recently, especially after the New Year’s Eve bombing outside a church in Alexandria.  If the emerging government of Egypt turns a blind eye to religious persecution, future USAmerican protests can cite Obama’s recognition of the importance of inter-religious solidarity on this very day that Mubarak resigned.

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