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

Yasmine El-Rashidi,
Friday January 7 2011

Muslims turned up in droves for the Coptic Christmas mass Thursday night, offering their bodies, and lives, as ‘shields’ to Egypt ’s threatened Christian community

Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.

From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as ‘human shields’ for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

‘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 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.

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