Egyptian Christians fear chaos after Cairo wedding attack

October 22, 2013

(Relatives of four victims killed in an attack at a wedding on Sunday, attend their funerals at Virgin Church in Cairo October 21, 2013. REUTERS/ Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Egyptian Coptic Christians joyfully waited outside the Virgin Church in Cairo for the bride to arrive to join the groom for their wedding.

Instead, bearded men on a motorcycle pulled up and fired on the crowd, deepening the fears of many Christians that their minority community will pay the bloodiest price following the ouster of elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July.

“We heard gunfire and ran outside to find people and children lying on the ground swimming in their blood,” said Father Sawiris Boshra of the assault on Sunday night.

Bride Donya Amir Eissa and groom Mena Nashaat survived. Four other Christians who had come to share their happy occasion, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed.

Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi was quick to warn that such “heinous acts” would not be tolerated in Egypt, a U.S. ally in the heart of the Middle East.

His words provided little comfort for Coptic Christians, who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people and have generally coexisted peacefully with majority Sunni Muslims for centuries, despite bouts of sectarian tension.

After toppling Mursi in July, army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appeared on state television to announce a political roadmap toward free and fair elections.

In an assertion of sectarian harmony, Sisi was flanked by a senior Muslim cleric and the Coptic Christian pope. Copts may have felt reassured to see Egypt’s new strongman beside their spiritual leader, but any such sense of relief did not last.

A bloody security crackdown on Mursi supporters on August 14 was followed by Egypt’s worst attacks on churches and Christian property in years, most of them occurring outside Cairo.

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