Egyptian natives living in Michiana are closely watching the historic events unfolding in their old country.
Two local residents born in Egypt, both of whom are Christian, don't favor the growing political movement to oust Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from office.
Efforts to reach Muslim Egyptian natives living in Michiana were unsuccessful.
For Tarek Beshara, 40, of Mishawaka, the recent anti-government protests didn't come as a surprise. He immigrated to this area 16 years ago for a better economic and personal future.
Change led by the people "has been attempted before. This time it escalated," he said. Egyptians are tired of high prices and limited availability of food, he said.
"You can have a lot of money and you still can't find food to buy," said Beshara, who holds dual U.S. and Egyptian citizenship.
For educated people, it's difficult to find jobs in Egypt. "I came here for better opportunities and a future. Egypt has a very poor economy," said Beshara, who earned a college degree in mechanical engineering in Egypt.
Beshara grew up Christian in Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church. Christians often have it tough in Egypt, and are subject to discrimination and persecution, he said. "It's hard to get equal opportunity for jobs," he said.
About 90 percent of Egypt's population is Muslim, and an estimated 8 percent to 12 percent is Christian, according to the U.S. State Department.
Beshara grew up in Cairo near the central square where many of the large protests and clashes are occurring. He still has aunts, uncles and cousins living in Cairo, and last visited there three years ago.
Beshara spoke to his relatives in Cairo by phone shortly after the demonstrations started, before the action turned violent. "They were excited. For them, it's the first time in decades they can have a voice," he said.
He isn't sure what to think of efforts to oust Mubarak, who has vowed to step down in September. Beshara wonders and worries who would be installed to replace the president.
Mubarak "is a good guy. He's served the country for 30 years. He's a very stable man," Beshara said. He'd rather Mubarak stay in office until September, giving the country time to choose a new leader and provide for an orderly transition of power.
Beshara said he would be very concerned if a new government involved members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a deeply conservative Islamic organization that constitutes the biggest organized opposition group in Egypt. He wouldn't favor any effort to establish a new Egyptian government based on Muslim religious law.
Beshara and his wife have two children. He loves life in the United States.
"It's the freedom here. You can do what you want. People who don't have freedom don't know what they are missing," he said.
In Egypt, it's common for an individual to be stopped by police for no reason and thrown in jail for a month with no charges, then released with no explanation, he said. "It's happened to people I know," he said.
Beshara said a change in government will do Egypt good, but preparations must be made and the change must be handled carefully. "I think they are going to have better opportunity and better government," he said.
Niles resident Magda Daniel, 36, was born and raised in Egypt. She immigrated to this area in 2001 when she married her husband, Kenneth Daniel Jr. They have one child.
She visited Egypt last summer and is surprised by this sudden revolution. "It feels strange. I never thought it would happen," Daniel said.
"I like Mubarak. He's a good president. And he's a veteran who fought in two wars," she said.
She's disturbed by the efforts to oust the president from office. And she doesn't trust Egyptians who are returning to that country after many years of exile vowing to create a new government.
"I agree that Egypt needs fresh blood, but it doesn't have to be someone with other purposes," she said. If Mubarak steps down before September, conditions are likely to get worse, she said.
Christians often are badly treated and looked down upon in Egypt, Daniel said.
Daniel's greatest fear is that the current strife will slip into civil war and that a new government will come to power that rules based on religious laws. She's dismayed by the violence that has occurred in the past week, and the looting and damage at museums.
Daniel's mother and seven siblings still live in Egypt. Her relatives are scared, and worry about being attacked. "All of them want Mubarak to stay until (after) the election," she said.
Staff writer Margaret Fosmoe: