The President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is displaying a stunning example of leadership.
This has largely been ignored. I wonder why. Maybe it has something to do with who stands in contrast…
In 2011, enraptured with the idea of the “Arab Spring,” Mr. Obama pushed President Mubarak out of office, enabling the Muslim Brotherhood to take control. Obama seemed to think this a fabulous accomplishment but it took the people of Egypt just one year to realize that, while they rejected the corruption of the Mubarak regime, they did not want the sharia law that was beginning to be imposed with Mohamed Morsi in charge.
The majority of the Egyptian people rebelled. They didn’t want sharia, they wanted to be open to the world, jobs and opportunity for young people. They wanted their government to not be corrupt. Obama came out and said that the people had no right to rebel against their newly elected government.
But they didn’t stop.
Interestingly the people trusted the Egyptian army. Unlike the government, the army is “of the people” and had taken no part in attacking the citizens. This opened the door for General Sisi, then the Minister of Defense, to replace Morsi as President of Egypt.
In office Sisi has implemented aggressive anti-terrorism activities including, banning the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt is actively fighting Islamic State infiltration in to their territory. Last year Egypt attacked the Islamic State after the organization had kidnapped and beheaded 21 Christian Copts (Egyptians). This too was denounced by Obama’s administration.
President Sisi’s attitude toward Egypt’s Christians is unusual. Under the Morsi regime and the Muslim Brotherhood riots following being ousted from power, there were numerous attacks on Christians. Dozens of churches were torched, some ancient churches were burned to the ground.
On January 6, 2015, Sisi did something extraordinary. He made an unannounced appearance at the Coptic Cathedral where Christmas Eve Mass was being celebrated. He wanted to wish the congregants a Merry Christmas and stress that all Egyptians are one people saying, “It must not be asked what kind of Egyptian are you? We are all Egyptians, one people.”
It was the first time ever that an Egyptian President honored a Coptic Christmas celebration with his presence.
Though President Gamal Abdel Nasser laid the cornerstone of the cathedral, he did not attend mass — a clear signal that Coptic Christianity was not to be wholly honored. Likewise, President Mubarak was twice made by protocol to attend a funeral there, but not a mass. Christmas celebrations at the cathedral were traditionally attended by government officials at the minister level.
Further emphasizing his recent declaration that Islam must reform itself, Sisi shortened his visit to Kuwait to be able to come and congratulate the Coptic community. He went straight from the airport to Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, arrived as service had just begun, and apologized for interrupting the mass. The ceremony was live streamed on Egyptian State TV, and showed him being greeted by a jubilant congregation.
Take a look, this is what leadership looks like.
Sisi could have ignored the Christian holiday. Instead he risked the wrath of the Muslim population, set the example and went before the Christians to wish them a Merry Christmas.
Here is a leader who instead of accepting the historic disharmony between the people of his land announces in front of the nation that it is wrong to divide, they are all one people.