600 Christians demonstrated against what they consider government
indifference to sectarian attacks after a Coptic Christian was fatally
stabbed and at least five others were wounded Friday outside several
churches in Alexandria.
The attack came on what is Good Friday for many of the world's Christians. But the Copts and other Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Easter a week later.
The Christian demonstrators claimed that if the government had held the perpetrators of previous Muslim-Coptic clashes — that killed 22 people in southern Egypt in 1998 and four people in Alexandria in October — to account, this incident would not have happened.
But the Interior Ministry has called on Christians to understand that the assailant in this latest case, Mahmoud Salah-Eddin Abdel-Raziq, was "psychologically disturbed." Officials and legislators have gone to the churches concerned "to explain that the attackers are insane and that the people should not blow things out of proportion," reported the AP.
Fr. Augustinos of the Mar Girgis church told the Associated Press that he is trying to explain the situation to parishioners. "We are trying to calm the situation after many of our youth started protesting,” he said. “We want to live in peace and tranquility, but these are people who had their family members killed or wounded. We are doing our best."
There were some conflicting reports over the number of assailants and the number of wounded. One victim said he saw youth holding two machetes. Another witness said the police sentry posted outside Saints Church did not want to intervene.
Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 72 million people. They generally live in peace with the Muslim majority, but occasional sectarian clashes do occur.
Christians complain that they suffer job discrimination, particularly in the high ranks of the civil service where high-ranking positions are mostly held by Muslims.