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Copts and Muslims clash at famous cathedral in Egypt

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Since the overthrow of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Coptic Christians have witnessed a surge of recent sectarian violence against their community.

On April 5, graffiti of crooked crosses resembling swastikas appeared on the walls of Al-Azhar school and incited clashes between some Muslims and Christians outside of Mar Girgis Church.

This resulted in the death of four Copts and one Muslim.

Reuters reported that shops belonging to Christians were smashed and an apartment inhabited by Muslims was also burned, along with several other buildings.

Following the clashes, a funeral was held for the Al-Khosous victims on the following Sunday in St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, where the head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, resides.

As mourners, Christians and sympathetic Muslims alike left the building that day, there was chanting for the removal of newly-elected President Mohammad Morsi, a former Muslim Brotherhood member. Unknown assailants then attacked the chanting crowd and the cathedral. The assailants threw firecrackers and stones, as riot police watched and even assisted the attackers. Their actions sparked outrage among Egyptian activists. The attack left two dead and 90 injured.

While  Morsi condemned the sectarian violence by saying that he considered “any attack on the cathedral an attack against [himself]” and pushing for an investigation, others near him have taken a different approach.

An assistant to the president, Essam Al-Haddad, issued a statement blaming Christian youth for the violence, claiming that “angry mourners vandalized cars,” which gave rise to the cathedral attack.

Furthermore, Tawadros dismissed the president’s reassurances as empty rhetoric.

“We need actions, not words,” Tawadros said, “we need to see something on the ground.” A senior Coptic bishop did thank Muslims for attempting to protect Christians amidst the recent sectarian violence.

Many Egyptian SLU students are concerned for the future of Egypt under the right-winged Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

SLU graduate student Peter Gadalla worries for “the safety and the future of all Egyptians” in situations like this, and feels that there is a “deep tension” between Muslims and Christians in Egypt “that needs to be brought out and talked about in a rational peaceful manner.”

He said that because of situations like this, the Muslim Brotherhood has “proven incompetent in handling the responsibility of being in power.”

Skynews Arabia, a 24-hour British News channel, interviewed Sahar Serbana, a Coptic woman who returned to Egypt from the U.S., who indicated that the problem was with the government and their Islamist policies, rather than Islam itself.

“Never did I regret. Not me, nor my children, nor my husband, did we feel regret in leaving America and returning to Egypt,” Serbana said, “Here is our country, here is our Church, here are our roots. We did not find this anyplace else.”

 

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