By Giannina Gonzalez
The historic efforts of individuals 5,889 miles away have caught world-wide attention. On Tuesday, Christina Michelmore, history chair of Chatham University spoke to an audience in Reeves Theater about the events going on in Egypt.
The event titled, “What’s Happening in Egypt and Why Should We Care” was sponsored by the Humanities Division and the Consortium for Educational Resources on Islamic Studies.
Michelmore’s lecture focused on the events that have taken place, major actors and lessons individuals should take from the events taking place. She stressed that the protests in Egypt have been primarily the work of young people who have stressed nonviolence.
The protests have been unique in many ways. Much of the energy that led to the revolution was reinforced through social networking outlets. Michelmore, however pointed out that cell phones with cameras have had a profound impact since they allow individuals to share events and ideas with others. In photos of the revolution individuals in the background are often taking pictures with their cell phones.
The elimination of “ministers of information” is a strong indicator of this communication revolution. Ministers of information have been around for more than half a century. The position however is becoming nearly impossible to fulfill due to the strong penetrating effects of the Internet, satellite cable, cell phones and, as Michelmore pointed out, cell phone cameras.
Social networking such as Facebook propelled the events, however the human factor played an even bigger role as people began talking and getting together.
Michelmore touched on the structure of the Egyptian military, which is made up to two branches. Male citizens are required to serve for one to three years depending on their education level. Members of this branch, the Conscript, are paid very little and have very little liberty. The other branch, the Officer Corps is a very elite and privileged group and plays a big role in society. Members of the Officer Corps have special housing, stores and schools for their children.
As of Feb. 11 Egypt has been under military rule. Michelmore said that efforts of the protestors will only work if the military and police find it in the best interest of the country to not kill their fellow countrymen.
Various other topic were touched upon in the lecture such as the Muslin Brotherhood, dangers of democratic transitions, the involvement of the United States, the different religious groups and the planned future elections.
“These protestors are like you, they worry about the same things,” said Michelmore. “It is your responsibility to learn about their lives and efforts.”
Fran Leap, associate professor of religious studies and theology, arranged Michelmore’s visit to Seton Hill University (SHU). The two traveled to Egypt through a grant from the Consortium for Educational Resources on Islamic Studies. The Consortium extends across Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia and is made up of 28 members. Members are academic, non profit and religious organizations. SHU is a member.
“This occurrence is something we need to know more about,” Leap said. “[Michelmore] was able to provide excellent guidance.”
Michelmore has spent six years in the Middle East. Three of which were in Egypt. She holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania with a specialization in the modern Middle East.
“This whole event is interesting and a thing that people need to hear about,” said freshman chemistry major Amanda Dumi. “Hearing about the details of it really helps.”