As Coptic Christians celebrate Christian, the Interior Minister moved police into position to give them and their churches protection. “If police confirm there is a presence of any terrorist elements, they will use live rounds,” an Interior Ministry official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
When Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was elected, Christians became the targets of violence. It escalated in June during the Revolution to remove him from power. In August and after the Military had ousted Morsi, Islamists unleashed their fury on the Christians and over 80 churches were attacked with many of them burned to the ground. Christians homes and shops were also destroyed.
Pope Tawadros accused Morsi of neglecting the Coptic community. The ousted president’s relation with the church was strained. Tawadros had supported Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s overthrow of Morsi, and appeared with others when the general announced Morsi’s removal.
Egypt Daily News reports that Copts interviewed this week stood by their decision to support the massive protests demanding the ousting of Morsi, who many Christians feared was trying to transform Egypt into an Islamic state.
“I don’t regret supporting the military against Morsi, whatever the price I have to pay,” Ibrahim George, 37, told AFP at his cramped apartment on the outskirts of Cairo.
Four members of his family, including his mother, were gunned down on October 20 outside the Church of the Virgin in Cairo’s working class neighbourhood of Al-Warrak as they stepped out of a wedding party. The victims also included two young daughters of his cousins.
“I received a call that the church was attacked. I first thought someone was kidding,” he said, choking up as he described the aftermath of the night-time shooting.
“When I rushed there, I saw a massacre and my mother covered in a blanket soaked with blood. I was devastated,” he said.
The attitude against Christians by Islamists has increased. Government authorities are now on alert for new attacks.
“The church did not bar Copts from participating in the June 30 protests against Morsi,” said priest Daoud Ibrahim of the Al-Warrak church, referring to the massive demonstrations in Cairo demanding his resignation.
“We are now paying the price of this decision…. but we don’t regret it. We are not scared. The doors of my church are open to all,” said the priest, stroking his long white beard as worshippers greeted him, while nearly a dozen policemen guarded the building.
CP reported Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour visited Coptic pope Tawadros II on Sunday, the first such meeting in 40 years. While the meeting was aimed at reassuring Christians that the new government will be better than the Muslim Brotherhood, a watchdog group has warned that it remains to be seen whether this move will benefit Christians, or if it will lead to new attacks instead.
The visit “reflected the state’s appreciation for the great patriotic role they (Egypt’s Copts) played in countering attempts to sow seeds of division among Egyptians”, the presidency said in a statement.
Egypt’s Christians rang in the new year Wednesday, with prayers for peace after the long period of unrest.