FaithWorld

Egyptian Christians to end two-week sit-in protest

May 21, 2011

(Coptic Christian women protest after clashes between Christians and Muslims in downtown Cairo May 8, 2011/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

Egyptian Christians holding a sit-in in downtown Cairo agreed to end nearly two weeks of protests on Friday, state television reported, after authorities promised to meet some of their demands. Witnesses said some of the protestors had begun preparing to go home after one main protest leader, Father Metyas Nasr, an Orthodox priest, agreed to a government offer to free five young men detained on Thursday following clashes outside a church in the eastern Cairo suburb of Ain Shams.

State news agency MENA said authorities will organise a meeting between Christian and Muslim clergymen on Saturday to discuss the subject of two closed churches in Ain Shams. Nasr was not immediately available to comment.

Witnesses said the decision split the protestors, with some getting ready to leave immediately while others insisting that authorities must first meet their demands in full, including equality for Christians, reopening of all closed churches and trying suspects in previous church attacks.

“They were not happy with the compromise,” one protester told Reuters by telephone. “They say they want all of their rights achieved, not just to have some young men released from prison,” he added.

Analysts attribute the increased tensions to growing influence by Islamist hardliners with little tolerance for Christians and to lawlessness as security forces disgraced for human rights abuses are being rebuilt. The protest began after 12 people were killed on May 8 in clashes with Salafists sparked by rumours that Christians were holding a woman who had converted to Islam.

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