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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Christians protect Muslims as they pray during Cairo protests

This photo fills me with joy:
This photo, tweeted by Cairo resident Nevine Zaki, who wrote, "A pic I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers."

For the last three weeks, I've been watching the street protests in Cairo online, mainly on Al Jazeera English, which often has streaming coverage from Tahrir Square and great coverage for non-Arabic speakers. I've seen and heard about acts of heroism from everyday Egyptians, from army officials who refuse to interfere with the peaceful protesters to volunteers who set up checkpoints to prevent bombs and weapons from entering the square, and internationals who've left Sweden, England and the United States to join the crowds in solidarity, but this image is my favorite thus far.

The human shield of Coptic Christians protecting their Muslim countrymen returns the favor -- thousands of Muslim Egyptians kept a candlelight vigil outside churches as Coptic Christians celebrated Christmas Mass on Jan. 10.

Since the street protests began in Cairo on Jan. 25, Egyptian Copts and Muslims have protected each other. Pro-government mobs attacked demonstrators before the Egyptian Army created a buffer between the two groups.

Egyptian police have also used water cannons on Muslims during prayers in the streets:

Now, I'm an atheist and no fan of organized religion ... but you don't fuck with someone when they pray.

Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields”

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

Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular 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. “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.”

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. 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.

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

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.

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.

Images of solidarity as Christians join hands to protect Muslims as they pray during Cairo protests

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 5:46 PM on 3rd February 2011

Striking photos of unity have emerged from the chaos in Egypt as Christian protesters stood together to protect Muslims as they prayed.

A group of Christians joined hands and faced out surrounding hundreds of Muslims protesters left vulnerable as they knelt in prayer.

She shared the images over Twitter, writing, 'Bear in mind that this pic was taken a month after z Alexandria bombing where many Christians died in vain. Yet we all stood by each other.'

The suicide bombing, shortly after the New Year's Day, killed 23 Coptic Christians, who make up 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million population.

Muslim radicals have been blamed.

One Colorado resident posted an email online that he received from his mother, who is Cairo visiting her daughter, the poster's sister.

She described a scene like those captured in the photos.

'Some Muslims have been guarding Coptic churches while Christians pray, and on Friday, Christians were guarding the mosques while Muslims prayed.'

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