copt coffins

(Egyptian Coptic Christians gather for funeral of seven victims of sectarian clashes, at Samaan el-Kharaz Church in Cairo March 10, 2011/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Thousands of Egyptian Christians attended an emotional funeral service on Thursday for people killed in the worst Christian-Muslim violence since Hosni Mubarak was toppled from power. Six coffins lay by a church altar during the ceremony, victims of the violence on Tuesday in which 13 people were killed and 140 wounded. A seventh coffin arrived later. Some held aloft signs with slogans that included: “No to sectarianism, no to murder,” and “Farewell to the martyrs of Christ.”

“We will sacrifice our souls and our blood for the cross,” a crowd of mourners chanted at the end of the service as they poured out of the Samaan al-Kharaz Church, built in a cave above the Cairo slum of Manshiet Nasr.  It was not clear how many of the dead from Tuesday’s violence were Christian and how many Muslim.

The strife poses another challenge to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which says it wants to hold elections within six months so it can relinquish power.

A number of activists have called for a march on Friday from Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protests that ousted Mubarak, to show solidarity with Egypt’s Coptic Christians. Many Egyptians took pride in the Christian-Muslim solidarity displayed during the revolution that toppled Mubarak on Feb. 11 and hoped the uprising had buried tensions that have flared up with increasing regularity in recent years.