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Droves of Egyptian Muslims Volunteer as Human Shields to Protect Christians at Church

Michael Ireland : Jan 14, 2011 : ASSIST News

"We either live together, or we die together."

(Cairo, Egypt)—Muslims turned up in droves for the Coptic Christmas mass Thursday night (Jan.6), offering their bodies, and lives, as "shields" to Egypt's threatened Christian community.

Yasmine El-Rashidi, writing online ahram.org.eg says that amidst clashes and threats, Copts feel marginalized in the Egyptian elections. El-Rashidi says that from the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as "human shields" for last Thursday night's mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

She states that: "We either live together, or we die together," was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural center distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the "human shield" idea.

The online article says that among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular Muslim televangelist and preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.

"This is not about us and them," said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly Street. "We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together."

Christian Copts at a funeralThe story goes on to say that in the days following the brutal attack on Saints Church in Alexandria, which left 21 dead on New Year' Eve, solidarity between Muslims and Copts has seen an unprecedented peak. (Photo: a Coptic Christian funeral/AP)

It states that millions of Egyptians changed their Facebook profile pictures to the image of a cross within a crescent—the symbol of an "Egypt for All."

Around the city, banners went up calling for unity, and depicting mosques and churches, crosses and crescents, together as one.

According to the article, the attack has rocked a nation that is no stranger to acts of terror, against all of Muslims, Copts and Jews.

In January of last year, on the eve of Coptic Christmas, a drive-by shooting in the southern town of Nag Hammadi killed eight Copts as they were leaving Church following mass. In 2004 and 2005, bombings in the Red Sea resorts of Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh claimed over 100 lives, and in the late 90's, Islamic militants executed a series of bombings and massacres that left dozens dead.

El-Rashidi writes: "This attack though comes after a series of more recent incidents that have left Egyptians feeling left out in the cold by a government meant to protect them."

She reports that last summer, 28-year-old businessman Khaled Said was beaten to death by police, also in Alexandria, causing a local and international uproar. Around his death, there have been numerous other reports of police brutality, random arrests and torture.

El-Rashidi goes on to write: "Last year was also witness to a ruthless parliamentary election process in which the government's security apparatus and thugs seemed to spiral out of control. The result, aside from injuries and deaths, was a sweeping win by the ruling party thanks to its own carefully-orchestrated campaign that included vote-rigging, corruption and widespread violence.

"The opposition was essentially annihilated. And just days before the elections, Copts—who make up 10 percent of the population—were once again the subject of persecution, when a government moratorium on construction of a Christian community center resulted in clashes between police and protestors. Two people were left dead and over 100 were detained, facing sentences of up to life in jail."

She states: "The economic woes of a country that favors the rich have only exacerbated the frustration of a population of 80 million whose majority struggle each day to survive. Accounts of thefts, drugs, and violence have surged in recent years, and the chorus of voices of discontent has continued to grow."

El-Rashidi concludes: "The terror attack that struck the country on New Year's Eve is in many ways a final straw—a breaking point, not just for the Coptic community, but for Muslims as well, who too feel marginalized, oppressed, and overlooked by a government that fails to address their needs.

"On this Coptic Christmas eve, the solidarity was not just one of religion, but of a desperate and collective plea for a better life and a government with accountability."



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