Prime Minister Essam Sharaf joined some 1,000 Coptic protesters on Monday evening, who welcomed him but refused to talk to him before the Helwan governor resigns.
Egyptian Christians protested on Monday after a church was set on fire on the outskirts of Cairo, the first sectarian flare-up since the 25 Janurary Revolution. Activists, both Muslim and Christian, suspect that the hidden hands of rogue security bodies bent on counter-revolution may be behind the incitement and the torching of the church.
The army vowed to rebuild the church before Easter holidays, but the protestors say the governor of Helwan (south of Cairo) refuses to allow the church to be rebuilt in its original location, and suggests another site outside the village.
Copts reject this suggestion.
"We demand the resignation of Helwan governor," said one of the protestors gathered in front of the state TV building in downtown Cairo.
Muslims also joined the crowd which, in the style of the revolution, hoisted the Egyptian flag, and held crosses wrapped in the flag. Banners called for a unified law for the building of houses of worship for both Christians and Muslims. The construction of churches in Egypt is still restricted by an ancient law which requires the premission of the head of state not just for the building of new churches but even for renovating or upgrading churches already in place. There are no restrictions on the building of mosques.
Protestors say they won't leave before our demands are met.
Witnesses and a security source said the church in Helwan was torched after a row sparked by a romantic relationship between a young Coptic man and a young Muslim woman. The affair apparently caused a heated argument between members of the Muslim girl's family, which resulted in to deaths. A mob then collected and went on an anti-Coptic rampage, which included attacking the church, looting it, and finally torching it to the ground.
The Copts of the village say many of their Muslim neighbors had intervened and helped save the church priests from the blaze. "But there were others, some unknown, who attacked the Muslims who were trying to rescue the Church clericks," said an eyewitness.
Last year Egypt saw more than its usual share of sectarian strife, and a rights groups has said such clashes have been on the rise. But the revolution of 25 Janurary brought Muslims and Christians together, with Coptic youth stepping forward to provide protection for Muslim compatriots as they conducted their communal prayers on Tahrir sq.