ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (BP)–A group of armed Muslims marched May 7 on Saint Mena Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the oldest churches in Egypt, and the resulting violence caused at least three deaths, news media reported.
Witnesses said Muslims and Christians exchanged gunfire in Alexandria, sending people running for cover, according to a May 8 report from CNN.
Intensified violence between Muslims and Christians in Egypt over the weekend sparked an emergency meeting of the country’s Cabinet, CNN reported. Spokesmen for Egypt’s Coptic Christians issued calls for international protection.
In Cairo, at least 12 people were killed and 232 others were wounded in clashes outside a church where rumors spread that a Christian woman who converted to Islam was being held against her will, CNN said. Egypt’s Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, postponed a trip abroad to hold the emergency meeting.
A small group of Coptic Christians gathered near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo May 9 to condemn the government for not doing more to protect them and called for international protection of the country’s Christian community, CNN said. Christians and Muslims debated as soldiers blocked access to the U.S. embassy.
In Cairo’s Maspiro neighborhood, bricks were thrown from rooftops on predominantly Christian protesters demonstrating in favor of national unity. Chants of “with our souls and blood we will sacrifice ourselves for the cross” were heard, according to CNN. Military riot police separated the demonstrators, some of whom were Muslim, from hostile onlookers.
Tensions between Muslims and Christians have increased after a recent U.S. government report highlighted hostility directed against the minority Copts in the predominantly Muslim society, CNN said.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor and senior writer Mark Kelly.