Peaceful Coptic Christians attacked in Cairo kills 25
Coptics were protesting the demolition of a church when they were attacked.
At least 24 people are dead as a peaceful Coptic Christian protest in Egypt was turned violent by militant counter-protesters. The protest-turned-riot highlights sharp divisions between Egypt's Christian population and the Islamic majority.
In addition to attacking Christians, the protesters also attacked Egyptian security forces.
As the protesters were marching, witnesses say a group of plainclothes counter-protesters assaulted them. Witnesses say pellets were fired at the Christians. It's believed that some of the people may have snatched weapons from soldiers, and turned them on the military. Rocks and bottles were thrown indiscriminately at the protesters.
The resulting violence led to the deaths of 24 people, according to an Egyptian health Ministry official. The military deployed more than 1,000 troops and several armored vehicles along the Nile river where the fighting began. Because protests continued late into the night, the military imposed a curfew until 7 AM local time, in the city of Cairo.
Several military vehicles were set ablaze, as troops fired into the air to disperse the Christians.
Protesters were demanding that the governor of the Aswan province be removed and for their church to be rebuilt. All accounts agree that the demonstration started peacefully with a march and a sit in at the state television building in Cairo. However when the protesters were attacked the situation quickly turned violent.
Security forces also used tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Additional protests broke out in four other provinces in Egypt according to local television sources.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf appeared on television to denounce the clashes as "unjustified violence." He further said that the recent riots also, "raised fear and concerns about the future of this homeland" and that the country's transition to democracy was in jeopardy.
Coptic Christians are the most significant religious minority in the Middle East and account for about 9 percent of Egypt's population.
Discrimination against Christians had long been encouraged by the government of Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak's regime often refused to prosecute people accused of crimes against Christians, and actively worked to discriminate against them.
Still, government leaders are not framing the recent conflict as a Christian versus militant fight. Rather, they claim the protests have been sparked by political agitators. Government officials have asked the people not to join in the protests.
Dissatisfaction with Egyptian government is growing as the transition to democracy is taking much longer than most people would like. Some accuse the government of being a military dictatorship that is moving only glacially to implement democratic reforms.
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Catholic, Coptic, Christians, church, riots, each addition, security forces, Cairo, Islamic, militants, security forces
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