Christians Condemn Continued Violence in Egypt

Dozens Dying in Protests

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CAIRO, Egypt, NOV. 22, 2011 ( Tens of thousands of demonstrators continue to gather in Tahrir Square, Cairo, to protest against the slow pace of reforms following the resignation of former president, Hosni Mubarak, nine months ago.

Military forces have taken harsh measures against the protesters, and estimates of the numbers killed range from the mid-20s up to nearly 40. More than 1,500 have been seriously injured.

Coptic Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina defended the protesters and strongly condemned the military’s action.

«The authorities have no right to shoot peaceful people,» Bishop Aziz said.

The Coptic bishop of Giza, a major city outside Cairo, Bishop Aziz was interviewed by Aid to the Church in Need today, and explained that both Christians and Muslims were united in Tahrir Square to defend human rights.

«People have a right to speak out in this way,» the bishop said. «The only way they can make their point is by demonstrating.»

Protests have spread outside the capital, to cities such as Alexandria, Suez and Damietta.

Many demonstrators have been made sick by tear gas used by police, according to information provided to Asia News by Father Rafic Greiche, a spokesman for the Catholic Church. Others have cuts and gashes and complain about the presence of hooligans in police ranks, he added.

Doubtful future

According to the latest news, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council that has ruled Egypt since Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow on Feb. 11, has promised elections will take place in June, 2012, and that the military will hand over power to a civilian president by July next year.

Parliamentary elections had been scheduled to start next Monday, but there are doubts now as to whether they will go ahead, and whether they will be accepted as legitimate.

Relations between the Coptic Church and the military rulers have been tense, especially following attacks on Christian demonstrators in Cairo in October that caused the deaths of at least 25 people, most of them Christians, and hundreds injured.

On Thursday last week hundreds of Coptic Christians marched to demand justice for the October victims. During their protest they were attacked by people throwing stones and bottles. Around 25 people were injured.

In his interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Aziz said the regime had failed to respond to calls by protestors to ease restrictions on Christian worship, and to loosen restrictions on building churches.

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