COP Circles in Egypt: ‘after a very tough earthquake’
What does peace mean in a country where a people’s revolution has ended in disillusionment, bloodshed and polarisation? The 20 women who took part in Egypt’s first Creators of Peace circles in February came heavily burdened by the events of the last three years, and their effect on their families, friends and relationships.
‘I prayed for God’s guidance on whether I should come or not, especially as I had to skip more than two and a half days from a job where I am threatened to quit because of my age and my being a woman,’ said Ekbel Al Asyouti, a participant in the first circle. ‘I certainly profited a great deal. We poured our souls out – many of us reaching out for handkerchiefs. I know it has helped me personally to reconcile events in my life. The healing has begun.’
The first circle was attended mainly by older women, connected to MRA/IofC Egypt. The second circle, which took place over a weekend, drew younger women, many of them connected to NGOs involved in dialogue and peace work. ‘It was an intense experience for me, rediscovering myself, looking deeper into my inner self and roots and opening my eyes to things that shape who I am now and how I react,’ said one participant. ‘Although it was almost impossible for me to share my stories and feelings, those three days are for me a beginning of a journey to start. I am now aware that I am not alone.’
The two circles were sponsored by MRA Egypt and by 5Netfahem, which is part of the British Council’s Active Citizens project. They were organised by Maha Ashour and facilitated by Su Riddell and Mary Lean from CoP UK, Marie Chaftari from Lebanon and Iman Al Ghafari from Syria. Afterwards, seven women fought their way through the Cairo traffic for three more days to be trained as facilitators.
Each group included women of different faiths, ages, backgrounds and political convictions. ‘It was a real chance for us to take time off, be calm and focus on the relevant issues,’ said Nagia Abdelmogney Said. ‘The circle helped us to express our hearts, hurts and hopes better, come closer to one another, dig deep in ourselves, connect more deeply with our Creator. We are moving towards regaining cohesion after a very tough earthquake.’
‘Attending the peace circle made me realize that peace is a process, and that involves inner peace and societal peace,’ said Radwa Elsekhily, the youngest woman to take part. ‘Now, I am all recharged up again to reach out for myself and for my community and start spreading the message of peace. Thank you for the hope!’
Report and photos by Mary Lean