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Egypt: peaceful Christmas for Copts

10 January 2014


Wave of support: Coptic Christians greet Pope Tawadros II at the Christmas Eve mass in Cairo

Wave of support: Coptic Christians greet Pope Tawadros II at the Christmas Eve mass in Cairo

COPTIC Christmas celebrations in Egypt earlier this week passed off peacefully, amid tight security. The interim Prime Minister of Egypt, Hazim al-Biblawi, was present at St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo for the Christmas Eve service.

More significant, however, was President Adly Mansour's visit to the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, last Sunday - the first by an Egyptian head of state for decades. Pope Tawadros said that the highly symbolic gesture sent a "beautiful message" to all Egyptians.

The meeting at Abbasiya Cathedral sought to reinforce unity between the country's Muslims (about 80 million), and the minority Christian community (about nine million), a presidential spokesman said. President Mansour was "keen to show Pope Tawadros II Egypt's appreciation of all the efforts of Coptic citizens who have been working for the welfare and interest of the country".

Tension between Islamists and Christians reached a climax in July after the military removed the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government of President Mohammed Morsi from power. The public support expressed by Egyptian Christian leaders for the army intervention angered Islamists, and acts of violence against the Christian community followed.

The military-backed government is hoping that Christians will vote in favour of the new constitution in a referendum on 14 and 15 January.

The new document replaces the one drawn up by a committee dominated by Islamists when President Morsi was in office. Christians and secularists criticised that version on the grounds that it sought to promote an Islamist agenda at the expense of other sections of the population.

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