Beacons of Hope in al-Zawra al-Hamra

Sent On: 
Wed, 2014-10-29
Newsletter Number: 

Beacon of Hope in al-Zawra al-Hamra


AWR, Cairo, October 29, 2014


Jonathan Vink, an Intern with us, recently accompanied Dr. Salwa Marcos from BLESS, the Bishopric of Public Ecumenical and Social Services, to investigate inter-communal relations in the poverty stricken area in northern Cairo known as al- Zawya al-Hamra.

Upon setting foot into the neighbourhood it is hard to imagine the dramatic escalation of communal violence witnessed by the residents in June 1981. As Jonathan describes it:  “A donkey pulls a cart, a woman carries fresh bread on her head and some boys are repairing their TukTuk.”


Left: Kased
Right: Jaqueline at St. Verine


The numbers of casualties remain uncertain and a heavy shadow of the incident lingers; however, when interviewed, residents who witnessed the events express great hope.


In the past 30 years the power of reconciliation and forgiveness can be witnessed. When the neighbourhood’s peace has been threatened, its residents - regardless of creed - have rallied to protect it. Kased, an elderly Coptic resident, explained: “When the Muslim Brotherhood held violent demonstrations here a couple of years ago, I would sit on the corner of the street and if I saw trouble coming, I just had to raise my hand and the Muslims here would come and help me.”


Social services organised in the area have been a key factor for reconciliation and de-escalating sectarian tensions in more recent years.  This has only been possible with the hard work of those involved and the passion of Jaqueline Abd al-Mesi, a local coordinator of BLESS' St. Verine programme, shone through when she detailed the services provided for those in need including the clinical facilities, healthcare and literacy classes, and a daycare programme for working mothers.

We invite you to read more about the 1981 al-Zawra al-Hamra incident in Jonathan’s article here.


Cornelis Hulsman

Editor-in-Chief, Arab-West Report


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