Cairo (AsiaNews) - "The Coptic community is preparing to celebrate Christmas with the anguish, following the New Year’s attack, that left 21 dead and 80 injured" an Egyptian priest tells AsiaNews, adding that "for now the Coptic Patriarch Shenouda III is determined to celebrate midnight mass, but until 7 January [the date of the Coptic Christmas] he could cancel it. "
Along with an unease that has invested all Christians, including Catholics, there is a new phenomenon: "Christians, especially the younger ones, have become more violent and this is because they feel it is useless to stay calm and hope that justice will be done".
On January 2 groups of young Copts clashed with police and they even threw stones at political and religious figures who had gone to the patriarch to express their condolences. In the clashes with the police, at least 45 policemen and 27 civilians were injured. Last night a thousand protesters clashed with police again in a neighborhood north of Cairo. The toll: 12 policemen injured. Yesterday afternoon a rally of 200 intellectuals and artists in the city center was forcibly dispersed.
"Young people no longer trust in the Egyptian system, which has huge flaws. Although the Egyptian constitution states the value of citizenship, it remains a written word, it has not become a reality".
The priest goes on to list the inequities in Egyptian society: "To repair a toilet in a Christian church, you need a decree from the governor of the province, Muslims do not need any permission to build a mosque. They are even offered free building material. The reality is that we are not treated as citizens. Added to this there is live discrimination in careers in the army and public administration and a total lack of security. We have to hire private security for our churches, but these have only a pistol and a cell phone and are not effective in stopping violence, they have little means to investigate and detect the presence of explosives. "
After the attack in Alexandria, the government is now stepping up security measures, especially in the lead up to Christmas, with hundreds of police deployed around the churches. No word yet if the patriarch will celebrate mass. So far, though he said that he will do so and we are preparing for it, but we do not know if it will go ahead in three days times. " The patriarch is also sending messages to calm the minds of young people, demanding peace and nonviolence.
The attack on the Church of Saints in Alexandria has even aroused the condemnation of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood: "In all likelihood - says the priest - the source of the terrorist act is elsewhere, al Qaeda, perhaps in Iraq. What is certain is that we are faced with a newer and crueler style than before. It is the first time there has been an attack of such a violent level in Egypt, using explosives inside a church. So far there had been clashes, but between people, individuals, perhaps with a gun, but certainly not with lethal explosives".
"Maybe, - concluded the priest –predominantly Christian nations, in Europe or elsewhere, need to bring more influence to bear on the Egyptian government, as did Pope Benedict XVI." Meanwhile, in preparation for Christmas, in France, Canada, Germany, authorities have tightened security around the buildings of the Coptic community for fear of attacks. In Sydney (Australia), the Coptic community has received threats and the faithful have decided to cancel Christmas celebrations.