Coptic women cry during a funeral mass held at the Saints Church for the victims of the new year bombing attack on the church (photo: Reuters)
The shock of the horrific attack on the Saints Church in Alexandria at half past midnight on January 1 has triggered a host of common Muslim-Coptic initiatives aimed at both expressing solidarity and support for the country's beleaguered Coptic minority, and counteracting the growing schism in relations between Egypt's two main faiths.
Politicians, right activists, intellectuals, actors as well as bloggers have come up with a number of suggestions during the past two days following the brutal event.
One of the main initiatives is a call for Muslims to attend the Orthodox Christmas Eve mass on January 6 as a sign of solidarity. Today, the National Democratic Party's (NDP) youth group has announced that they will be taking part in the Christmas Eve mass. Many public figures have already given their support to this initiative, among these are Abdel Monien Abul Fotouh, Muslim Brotherhood and Shoura Council member; Isaad Younis, actress and business woman and Khaled Abul Nagaa, actor.
The political opposition parties have called for celebrating the Coptic Christmas at the Wafd Party Headquarters and marking it as a "national unity day." The parties met at the Wafd party HQ on Saturday afternoon right after the explosion. Sayed El-Baddawi, head of the Wafd Party, lead the meeting which was attended by prominent political figures including Ayman Nour, head of the Ghad Party and Ramy Lakah, a prominent Wafdist and big businessman.
Schools stood still as students all over Egypt held a minute’s silence on Sunday to mourn the victims in Alexandria. Egypt’s minister of education, Ahmed Zaki Badr, had ordered the silence be held and that school teachers devote the first lesson to the concept of unity in Egypt and terrorism. Teachers repeated the government’s assertion that “foreign hands” were responsible for this act of sectarian violence.
Meanwhile, Egyptian universities held peaceful demonstrations today, with faculty, staff and students joining together to show their condemnation. Protestors chanted "Mohamed will remain the friend of Jesus and the Mosque will remain beside the Church" and "a cross and a crescent, my hand in yours whatever is said."
It's not just politicians and students who have taken action. The federation of trade unions has decided to visit St Mark's Cathedral, seat of the Coptic Pope Shenouda III, on the Orthodox Christmas day, January 7, to express their condemnation of the brutal events.
Nevertheless, right activists who have held several demonstrations around Cairo since the bomb attack are calling on the whole of Egyptian society, Muslims and Copts, to make a peaceful protest along the Nile Cornish on Coptic Christmas day next Friday at 4pm. Some have even posted on Facebook for participants to bring copies of the Quran or the Bible to the event.