Thousands of mourning, angry Copts bid farewell to victims of clashes with army

Sherif Tarek , Monday 10 Oct 2011

Coptic mourners at Abbassiya Cathedral tell their own stories of narrow escapes from yesterday's violence, vent their anger at state-run media while saying last goodbyes to loved ones

Coptic priests lead sermons to mourn victims of Bloody Sunday (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

A huge funeral sermon for the victims of Sunday’s deadly clashes between protesting Copts and their supporters ‎and military forces was held at Cairo’s Abbassiya Cathedral on Monday.

Grieved, ‎enraged and frustrated, thousands of Christians and Muslim supporters watched in awe as coffins of the casualties ‎kept coming from the nearby Coptic Hospital where bodies of the dead were held over night.‎

Pope Shenouda III was among the priests who gave hymns while praying for ‎yesterday’s dead, while Anba Moussa, the Coptic Orthodox ‎Archbishop of Youth, gave the statement of the Holy Synod, asking Egypt’s Copts to pray and fast for ‎three days starting tomorrow.‎

“I would like to ask all Copts not to resort to violence,” he said, before adding, ‎‎“apparently, there are no new procedures for our interest; we have been suffering the ‎same problems over and over again.”‎

Thousands of Christians chanted slogans defending their religion and deploring the ‎‎“neglect and persecution Copts have long suffered from”.

Other angry mourners chanted against the ‎Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Field Marshal, ‎Hussien Tantawi, the de facto ruler of Egypt, whom they hold responsible for the deaths of young people they said were peacefully demanding equal rights. ‎

Copts at the Cathedral clearly felt great bitterness over the incident, widely regarded the ‎worst since the January 25 Revolution. For hours, they emotionally recited hymns and ‎verses from the Bible while holding aloft crosses and shedding tears. ‎

Michel Agib, one of the scouts at the Cathedral, gave statements ‎to Ahram Online that by far reflected a great deal of faith. Yet, in the same breath, he ‎seemed to be critical of the Army.‎

“It was mentioned in the Bible that we will be hated by everyone; this is the destiny that ‎will lead us to paradise,” 24-year-old Michel Agib, one of the scouts, told Ahram ‎Online. “The army shouldn’t have killed all these people, under any circumstances. ‎

“The march was peaceful. I went there knowing that there is a huge possibility that ‎I would die … If we had been strong enough to open fire at the army as some people ‎claim, we wouldn’t have let our churches get destroyed,” he added. ‎

Rami Attef said he was one of the protesters who had been injured at the hands of the ‎army. His foot in bandages, he recounted what happened to him: “Bullets were whizzing past, much too close for comfort.‎

“My foot was injured because a military truck ran over it. This truck ‎turned around and wanted to run me over but people carried me out of the way…We will never expect the army to protect us ever again.”‎

Hesham Fathi, a 46-year-old businessman, reiterated that march was peaceful, blaming the violence  – ‎like many others – on thuggish-looking infiltrators. “Women and ‎children were in the march in Shubra; there were no troublemakers at all.‎

“I had to leave early to take an elderly man home but I received phone calls from other ‎protesters I know, saying they found people holding rifles coming from Sabtia Street and ‎chambilion Street. Ten minutes later, all hell broke loose.‎

“I would say some people inside the military council are behind what happened; some ‎of them are loyal to the remnants of the overthrown regime ... Life is really tough now ‎for Christians. Some Muslims just don’t want them in the country.”‎

Priest Raphael Nazmi echoed the same sentiment, saying, “Some extremist sheikhs ‎call on Muslims not to greet Copts; others even demand our expulsion. Such calls are quite ‎common in the sermons of Friday prayers held in rundown districts.” ‎

Short link: