AGAINST a background of continuing violence in Egypt, the
Anglican community in Cairo has made a strong gesture of friendship
towards the country's Muslims.
The diocese in Egypt with North Africa & the Horn of Africa
invited 130 leaders from different denominations to an
Iftar celebration - a meal to mark the end of a day of
fasting during Ramadan - in All Saints' Cathedral Hall last
weekend. Guests included the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the former Grand
Mufti, and the Deputy of the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Islamic centre,
as well as Christian representatives.
A diocesan statement said that "several leaders affirmed that
the resumption of national unity is of utmost importance for the
future of Egypt, especially after the recent demonstrations and the
appointment of a new civilian government."
Outside of such Iftar celebrations, however, a chasm has opened
up between the mainly Muslim Brotherhood supporters of the deposed
President, Mohammed Morsi, on the one side, and the military, and
anti-Morsi groups on the other.
A turning point in the current crisis was the appeal by the
Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, General Abdel Fattah
al-Sisi, for Egyptians to take to the streets in their millions
last Friday to give the military a popular mandate to tackle the
The unprecedented decision to use a show of public force rather
than a conventional democratic mechanism, such as a referendum, as
a measure of popular support, represented a blow to inclusive
democratic hopes; for it was widely interpreted as a signal from
the military that it had given up on the prospect of achieving
accommodation with the Muslim Brotherhood. The subsequent killing
and injuring of scores of Muslim Brotherhood protesters in clashes
with the army last Friday night only reinforced the mutual
The most optimistic scenario would be that the military dropped
charges against Mr Morsi, and, in return, the Brotherhood
leadership called off its protests. But the Muslim Brotherhood is
not likely to accept bargaining of this sort as long as it feels
confident of widespread popular support for its claim to be the
legitimately elected governing power.
The military is still betting on firm action to wear down the
Muslim Brotherhood protests eventually. It is also counting on its
tough stand towards the Brotherhood, and its emphasis on
re-establishing security, keeping a broad section of the population
on its side. But two domestic issues might force the military to
rethink its policies: a mounting list of civilian casualties at the
hands of the army, and growing poverty.
The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness
Ashton, who was in Cairo on her second visit to Egypt in 12 days,
was taken by helicopter on Tuesday to a secret location to meet Mr
Morsi. The meeting lasted for two hours, during which he confirmed
that he was well, and had access to news media.
The military is continuing to detain Mr Morsi and other senior
Brotherhood figures, however, and warned on Sunday that it would
take "firm and decisive action" against violent protesters.