Egyptians call for second unity march after fatal attacks at churches

Sherif Tarek , Wednesday 11 May 2011

Ahram Online speaks to an Imbaba popular committee leader calling for 2nd unity march to avoid revenge killings and sectarianism that threatens to tear Egypt apart

imbaba march
Famous writer Hamdy ‎Qandil (next to the priest) was among the participants of the ‎first march. Photo: Sherif Tarek

Egypt’s Imbaba committees call for another unity march to avoid more sectarian violence in their neighbourhood, a rundown area in Giza that saw sectarian violence over the weekend.‎
Copts and Muslims exchanged gunfire, Molotov cocktails and stones Saturday as two ‎‎churches were set ablaze in Imbaba following rumours that a convert to Islam, Abeer ‎‎Talaat, was being held captive in Mar Mina Church. The ensuing violence left 12 dead ‎‎and 240 injured.‎

The first march was held on Monday, with hundreds of ‎Muslims and Copts walking side-‎by-side, waving Egyptian flags and chanting anti-‎sectarian slogans such as "Muslim ‎and Copts, [are] one hand."

The second march is to take place tomorrow midday to ease tensions and console ‎those who ‎lost family members. The meeting point will be on Wehda Street, ‎where the ‎second church, The Virgin Mary, was set afire. ‎

They are expected to congregate at 16:00 and set off an hour later. The march is ‎planned to ‎move towards the Mar Mina Church and end at El-Shagara Square.‎

‎“There has been turbulence in Imbaba over the past few days,” Ihab Ali, coordinator of Imbaba's ‎‎popular committees, told Ahram Online. “We sat down with moderate ‎‎Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood members and Copts and discussed possible ways to ‎‎cool things down.‎

‎“We asked the Islamists to give pacifying speeches on Friday’s prayers to stress national unity and denounce sectarian strife … We have concerns that some of the ‎‎victims’ families might seek revenge, whether Muslims or Christians, especially that ‎‎most of Imbaba’s residents are from Upper Egypt. I think if nothing happens until ‎‎Friday, then we are safe.‎"

Ali made reference to the family’s origins in Upper Egypt because their tribal mentality is well-known and revenge killings are common.

‎“Copts and Muslims, Imbaba's residents as well as sheikhs from Al-Azhar [Islamic authority] will take part in the march. It’s an open invitation: everyone can come.”‎

Several prominent Egyptian figures took part in the first march, such as writers Hamdy ‎‎Qandil and Ahdaf Soueif; the Google exec who organised the first day of the demonstrations, Wael Ghoneim and head of the National Association for Change, Abdel Galil Mutafa. ‎

The first march was organised by the Egyptian National Association for Change, the ‎‎Popular Campaign for Supporting El-Baradei ‎and the April 6 Youth Movement. ‎

On the ‎popular committees’ role to secure Imbaba amid escalated sectarian tensions, Ali said: ‎‎“The committees setup checkpoints all over the district till 3am every day, ‎most of us have taken holiday time from work as a result.‎

‎“Saturday’s violence was planned. Eyewitnesses say the so-called Salafists who ‎attacked the churches were thug-looking; they had scars and slashes on their faces and ‎tattoos on their arms - this is not how genuine Islamists look like,” he added.‎

Other accounts say that some attackers did not have beards - another sign that makes it doubtful that Salafists were the instigators.

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