The narrow streets in Al Zawya Al Hamra are quiet. A donkey pulls a cart, a woman carries fresh bread on her head and some boys are repairing their TukTuk. On such mornings, it is hard to imagine that these same streets once were the stage of tragic fights between Muslim and Christian residents. In june 1981, a conflict escalated dramtically causing a number of deaths and more injuries. Today the people in this poor area live in harmony, but what are the chances of a conflict like this to happen again?
Kased (b. 1931 - ) was with the first groups who came from the North to settle in Al Zawya Al Hamra. Back then the area consisted mainly of agricultural land and the buildings these people built were illegal. The rapidly growing number of inhabitants resulted in densely populated and poor area. Living here for almost sixty years, Kased says the area was always a peaceful place – “The relations between Muslim and Christian people were good, we always lived in good harmony.”
Jaqueline is one of the three stewards in charge of the St. Verina project in Zawya Al Hamra. She explains how this project is of great value for the area. “Because of the basic health class”, she told me, “we could help people treat problems they cannot locate themselves. These are often easy to cure, but the psychological relief is great.” The help for the needy is thoroughly undertaken. “First,” she explains, “we do research on the people in the area and look for the most urgent cases. Sometimes we try to find a new apartment, sometimes we fix walls and floors and sometimes we help [them] financially. Whether muslim or Christian, we’re here for the poor.”
When you ask the local priest, Abouna Youssef, if he thinks such incidents could ever happen again he is firm in his answer. “No, not possible. The reason for this,” he continues, “is that we take care of our people. Back in 1981 the area was very poor, health conditions were bad and education was low. All of these factors add up to a higher risk of violent incidents.”
Abouna Youssef, himself has good relations with local Muslim leaders. “We often visit each other, and when there is a problem concerning our people we talk about this [and try to] find a fitting solution. Of course, there are still some Brotherhood supporters in this area, but not enough to stir up violent incidents like those in the past. I’m sure Muslims will prevent this too.”