The driver took a detour to get to our destination. Apparently there were road closures.
It was December 26 and I wasn’t thinking about Christmas, but it wasn’t going to be Christmas in Egypt until January 7, as most Christians there follow the Julian calendar. Most church holy days happen a couple of weeks after they are celebrated in our Gregorian calendar.
The road closures are part of a holiday routine in Egypt. Around Christmas, Easter, and other Christian holidays, the roads near some Cairo churches are blocked off. Security is stepped up. Just in case.
You may remember reading about attacks on Egyptian churches in previous years. The country is ninety per cent Muslim, and there is a certain tolerance for a Christian minority that has been here for two thousand years. But there are always extremists to consider, and the government, mindful of its international reputation, wants to make sure there are no more incidents that could impact tourism dollars. Hence the increased security.
What I found interesting was the decision to wrap some churches in the Egyptian flag. Not usually all the way around, but at least in front of the entrance.
I figured it was done as a reminder to all passersby that the church is part of Egypt, as are the Christians. I wondered also if the flag had some significance, that would defer a bomber who didn’t want to desecrate it.
Christianity was part of Egyptian culture for centuries before the advent of Islam. There are places in Cairo that have been considered holy sites for centuries because Jesus and his family lived there after fleeing Palestine and Herod’s wrath. That is an inconvenient truth for Islamic extremists.
Wrapping the buildings in the flag appears to have worked. As Christmas day drew to a close in Egypt, there were no news reports of attacks, or at least none I am aware of.
Whether that is because of the flags or whether it is due to a greater tolerance for minorities than there was a few years ago, that is welcome news. There is enough bad news in the world. For Egyptians, It is nice to be able to celebrate Christmas without bombs going off.
If only that was the case everywhere.