October 10, 2011 by staff
Coptic Christians, The Coptic church in Egypt on Monday criticized the authorities to allow the repeated attacks on Christians with impunity as the death toll from a night of rioting rose to 26, most Christians who were trying to organize a protest peacefully in Cairo during an attack on a church.
The spiritual leader of the Coptic Christian minority, Pope Shenouda III, declared three days of mourning, fasting and prayer for the victims on Tuesday and presided over the funerals of some of the Christian dead. Sectarian violence on Sunday was the worst in Egypt since the uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in February.
“Strangers are placed at the center of our children and the mistakes to blame our children,” said the Coptic Church in a statement. He lamented “the problems are repeated and unpunished.”
The clashes on Sunday night lasted over a large part of central Cairo, and said to the Christians, Muslims and security forces. That began when about 1,000 Christian protesters tried to stage a peaceful sit-in outside the state television building along the Nile in downtown Cairo. The protesters said they were attacked by “thugs” with sticks and violence out of control after a speeding military vehicle jumped the curb and crashed into some of the Christians.
No precise breakdown of the number of Christians and Muslims are among the victims, but 26 are believed to be mostly Christian. Authorities said at least three soldiers were among the dead. About 500 people were injured. The official news agency of Egypt said that dozens of people have been arrested.
Much smaller skirmishes erupted again on Monday outside the Coptic Hospital, where many of the Christian victims were taken the night before. Several hundred Christians attacked police with stones outside, while the cries of mourning women echoed from inside the hospital. Some of the hundreds of men gathered out of wooden crosses and empty coffins lined up outside the hospital.
There was no word on casualties in the renewed fighting.
In Washington, the White House said President Barack Obama is deeply concerned about the violence in Egypt, and called for restraint on all sides.
“As the Egyptian people shape their future, the United States continues to believe that the rights of minorities – such as the Copts – must be respected, and that all people have the universal rights of peaceful protest and freedom of religion” said a White House statement. “These tragic events should not stand in the way of timely elections and a smooth transition to democracy that is peaceful, fair and inclusive.”
Christians, who represent about 10 percent of 85 million people in Egypt, because of the military ruling council that took office following the lifting for being too lenient with those behind a wave of anti-Christian attacks since the overthrow of Mubarak . The chaotic transition of power has left a security vacuum, and the Coptic Christian minority is particularly concerned by a show of force by the ultraconservative Islamists, known as Salafists.
In recent weeks, riots have erupted in two churches in southern Egypt, led by Muslim mobs angered by the construction of the church. A riot broke out near the city of Aswan, even after church officials agreed to a demand for ultra-conservative Muslims known as Salafis to a cross and the bells to be removed from the building.
Governor of Aswan, Gen. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, also increased the tension by suggesting that the media that the church building was illegal.
Christian protesters are demanding the dismissal of the governor, the rebuilding of the church, compensation for people whose houses were burned and prosecution of those responsible for the riots and attacks on the church.
The European Union strongly condemned the violence.
“It is time that the leaders of Egypt understands the importance of religious plurality and tolerance,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. “It’s very important that the Egyptian authorities reinforce religious freedom in Egypt,” said the British foreign secretary, William Hague.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf Egypt said in a televised speech that the riots were a further setback in the transition and post in the country to civilian rule after three decades of authoritarian rule by Mubarak.
“These events have led us back several steps,” said Sharaf. Foreign meddling blamed for the problems, saying it was part of a “dirty conspiracy.” Similar explanations for the problems in Egypt are often heard on the military rulers who seized power from Mubarak, perhaps in an attempt to deflect accusations that it is management’s bungling of the country.
“Rather than move forward to build a modern state based on democratic principles, we are back to the search for stability and the search for the hidden hands – and foreign – to mess with the country’s security and safety,” said Sharaf .
Sunday’s violence will probably ask the military to further strengthen its grip on power.
The board of military government headed by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Minister of Defense of 20 years under the previous regime of Mubarak took over after the 18-day popular revolt forced Mubarak to resign. The military initially pledged to hand over power to a civilian administration within six months, but the deadline has passed, the parliamentary elections now scheduled to begin in late November. According to a timetable floated by the generals, the presidential elections could be held late next year.
Already, the military council said it had no intention of raising the much-hated emergency laws in place since Mubarak came to power in 1981.
The tension has grown between the military and youth groups who designed the survey, with activists blaming the generals for mishandling the transition period, human rights violations and create a separation between them and the Egyptians walk.
“The army inciting sedition to remain in power,” said Mariam Ayoub, a relative of a Christian protester, Michael Mosaad, while outside the Coptic hospital. “They tell us all that this is what happens without emergency laws.”
State television said authorities had stepped up security at vital installations in anticipation of renewed unrest, the deployment of additional troops outside parliament and cabinet. Riot police were stationed outside the hospital also Coptic. Funeral services were planned for the afternoon at the main Coptic Cathedral in Cairo.
The clashes on Sunday night did not appear to be purely sectarian.
State television, which has grown ever more faithful to the military, called the “honorable” the Egyptians to protect against attacks by the army and spread the news of clashes between protesters and troops outside the building Christian TV. Soon after, gangs of youths armed with sticks, stones, knives and petrol bombs began to wander through downtown Cairo, attacking Christians. Troops and riot police did not intervene to stop the attacks against Christians.
Throughout the night, the season of sharing the Christian protesters as a violent mob attacked the army and public property. At one point, the information minister aired Osama Heikal to deny coverage for the station had a sectarian bias, but acknowledged that its presenters acted “emotionally.”
The military council ordered the Cabinet to investigate the violence and vowed to safeguard the security of Egypt
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