Thousands of Copts continue to protest outside TV building

Thousands of Coptic Christians continued their sit-in on Monday outside the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) building in Maspero for the second consecutive day.

The protesters demanded the prosecution of all those involved in igniting sectarian strife in Egypt, including those involved in the bombing of the Church of Two Saints, the Atfeeh incident, and the clashes in Imbaba on Saturday, which lead to the deaths of 12 people.

The protesters raised banners demanding that those churches that had been closed arbitrarily by the State Security apparatus be re-opened. Dozens of Muslims joined the protest, while hundreds of young Copts from Shubra, Giza, and other governorates were reported to be on their way to join the sit-in. 

Minor clashes erupted on Monday morning between the protesters and the television building staff, with some protesters claiming that employees inside the building had begun throwing stones, prompting protesters to throw stones back. During the exchanges, some glass on the front of the television building was smashed.

At one point, some Coptic protesters attempted to storm the television building but were stopped by the military and the police. The protesters proceeded to pelt the security forces with a hail of stones.

The protestors demanded the resignation of top officials within the ERTU, chanting, “The people want to purge the media.”

Eyewitnesses said that Archbishop Matthias Nasr, a priest at the Ezbat al-Nakhl Church, succeeded in calming things down.

A delegation from the 25 January Revolution Youth Coalition visited the protestors at dawn on Monday in an attempt to hear their demands and convince them to end their protest, saying that it might have serious negative consequences for the achievements of the revolution.

For his part, Sheikh Mazhar Shahin, an imam and preacher at Omar Makram Mosque told Al-Masry Al-Youm, “Hidden external forces are behind the Imbaba events, and these forces are trying to ignite sectarian strife.”

“The biggest proof of this is that when I went to Imbaba during the events, I found neighborhood committees made up of both Christians and Muslims chanting “one hand” and guarding the churches, mosques and houses,” he continued.

Shahin went on to say, “We have come to Maspero to reaffirm our motto that Muslims and Christians are one hand, and that the blood shed on Egyptian soil during this ordeal – whether that of a Muslim or Christian – is Egyptian blood.”

“We must protect Egyptian blood, especially during this difficult period, during which we urgently need the cooperation of all forces and individuals to build a new Egypt,” he said.

Shahin added there was an urgent need to alter religious discourse, as there were people on both sides igniting sedition in the name of religion. Shahin called on the armed forces to use force to prevent all those igniting sedition from doing so.

Shahin said that he, along with a number of coalitions, were in the process of reviving the role of neighborhood committees in all governorates to protect churches and mosques.

Meanwhile, Coptic activist Michael Mounir told Al-Masry Al-Youm that extremist groups carrying out the agendas of certain Arab countries that back the former regime were behind the Imbaba incident.

“We know that the Salafis have links with the State Security apparatus, and now they want to put the armed forces in a weak position,” said Mounir.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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