Coptic protests over burnt church continue through the night

Ahram Online and Mena, Tuesday 8 Mar 2011

Hundreds of Copts continued their demonstrations before the TV building in downtown Cairo, and elsewhere protesting the the torching of a Coptic church, and demandinga an end to discrimination and fully equal rights of worship

People demonstrate in front of the Egyptian Television building to protest the torching of a church
People demonstrate in front of the Egyptian Television building to protest the torching of a church in the village of Sol in Atfeeh, south of Cairo March 7, 2011. REUTERS/Peter Andrews

Protests, which started Monday by Egyptian Christians in anger over the torching of a Cairo church on Saturday, continued into the night as thousands of Coptic demonstrators cut off the 26th of July Ring Road and the 6th of October Bridge. Demonstrations continued into Tuesday and several are still gathered in front of the state television building, which is the center of Cairo.

Monday’s demonstrations ended violently after protestors stopped cars, bringing traffic to a halt. According to sources, tensions escalated between protestors and people who insisted to go through, to the extent that stones were seen thrown at cars.

Demonstrators demand that the governors of Helwan, Menia and Qena resign for their lack of concern for the well-being of the Coptic community in their governorates.

The demands also include the rebuilding of the torched church in its current location. The governor of Helwan had tried to have it moved outside of town, and currently, the law disfavours the construction and remodelling of churches.

However, Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces promised on Monday to rebuild the torched Helwan church in its original location, according to state TV. Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has also met with the demonstrators on Monday and discussed their demand of replacing Helwan’s governor.

The church was set ablaze by a group of Muslims on 5 March following a dispute between two families over the romance between their Muslim daughter and a young Christian man.

Thousands of Copts have been participating in a sit-in in front of the television building since the incidence.

Aida El-Kashef, a participant in the Tahrir Square sit-in nearby, says they will be asking the Coptic sit-in to join them in Tahrir, since the revolution’s demands also includes ending all forms of religious discrimination. She added “many of us here in the square are Christians, as well.”

Last year Egypt witnessed more than the usual incidences of sectarian strife.  However, the 25 January revolution was believed to have brought Muslims and Christians together.

Coptic and Muslim prayers were conducted in sequence at Tahrir Square, the revolution’s hub, and on several occasions Coptic youth provided protection from attacks by police or thugs for Muslims as they conducted their communal prayers in the square.

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