Monday, May 9, 2011

Egypt's Coptic Christians Protest Against Sectarian Attacks

RTTNews) - Thousands of Egyptian Coptic Christians demonstrated in the country's capital city of Cairo on Monday to protest against the Muslim-Christian sectarian violence triggered by the attacks on two churches over the weekend.

Monday's demonstration was staged outside the building housing Egypt's state television in Cairo, marking the second day of such protests at the same venue. The protesting Christians are alleging that the army had failed to protect them from attacks by the Muslim majority.

They are also demanding the removal of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt's ruling military council which replaced the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak after the February uprising.

At least 12 people were killed on Saturday, after hundreds of conservative Muslims attacked and set fire to two churches in Cairo. Further clashes broke out on Sunday, with Christians and Muslims pelting each other with stones. More than 150 people from both sides were reported to be injured in the two days of fighting.

The violence erupted late Saturday after rumors spread that a Christian woman was being held in the Saint Mena Church in Cairo's Imbaba district against her will because she married a Muslim man and wanted to convert to Islam. The woman in question has since denied those claims in a TV interview.

The Egyptian military has since restored order in Cairo and arrested more than 190 people over their involvement in the sectarian clashes. The military also pledged to enforce new laws that forbids attacks on churches and other places of worship.

Egypt's Coptic Christians Protest Against Sectarian Attacks

"The Supreme Military Council decided to send all those who were arrested in yesterday's events, that is 190 people, to the Supreme Military Court," the army said in a statement, adding that the move would act as a "deterrent to all those who think of toying with the potential of this nation".

Official demographic figures indicate that most of Egypt's Christians, who constitute almost ten per cent of the north African country's 80-million population, are Copts. They are descendents of native Egyptians converted into Christianity in the first century AD.

The Copts still follow a calendar based on Ancient Egypt and celebrate Christmas on January 7. Despite being the largest Christian community in the Middle East, they regularly complain about discrimination, harassment and sectarian attacks in their home country.

The developments come just over a couple of months after Mubarak was forced to step down from office on February 11 following mass protests across the country against his 30-year rule and handing over of the control of the nation to the military

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