Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Amid huge security, Egypt's Christians protest peacefully

Hundreds of supporters of Egyptian Christians protesting a New Year's bombing that killed almost two dozen of their members marched Tuesday night on a church in a Cairo suburb, where they were met by an equal number of safety officers in riot gear.

For the first night since the car bomb, which exploded in front of a Coptic church in Alexandria, there were no reports of aggression during the protests. The car bombing death toll rose to 23, Egypt's state news agency MENA reported Tuesday.

Christians and Muslim supporters in the Shubra area of Cairo shouted their indignation over the Alexandria attack on Coptic Christians.

"With my blood and my soul I will protect the cross," chanted crowds of protesters, as they wended their way down Shubra Street in the direction of a church. Some carried crosses up to 4 feet (1.22 meters) long inscribed with messages of protest written in red ink to represent blood. Some protesters lay down on the street, prostrating them in the shape of a cross.

Protests had broken out in Christian areas of Egypt every night since the car bombing outside the Church of the Two Saints. But security forces beefed up their attendance Tuesday in Shubra and Alexandria. Hundreds of officers ready in helmets with visors, body armor and carrying shields and night sticks lined the street, leaving a path for the Shubra demonstrators to pass.

Millions of people live in the Shubra neighborhood, home to a strong Christian population and many churches. About nine percent of Egypt's 80 million residents are Coptic Christians, according to the CIA's World Fact Book.

The Coptic Church bases its religion on the teachings of the Apostle Mark, who introduced Christianity to Egypt, according to St. Takla Church in Alexandria, the capital of Coptic Christianity. The religion is known for its crack with other Christians in the fifth century over the definition of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

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