01/07/2014, 00.00
EGYPT
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Coptic Orthodox celebrate Christmas under tight security but without violence

In Cairo and throughout Egypt army and police control access to the churches. For the first time since Nasser a President visits the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of Abasseya . Tawadros II : The birth of Jesus "brings hope, courage and a new life".

Cairo ( AsiaNews) - The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox celebrated Christmas in the hope of a "new life" brought by the birth of Jesus and in fear of attacks by Islamic extremists. Last night, thousands of people attended the traditional vigil in the cathedral of Abasseya (Cairo ) , presided over by Patriarch Tawadros II.

After yesterday's clashes between police and the Muslim Brotherhood claimed the lives of 13 people and the arrest of some terrorists who were preparing a series of attacks against Christian churches, the army stepped up security measures compared to previous years. In Cairo, the streets around the religious buildings were closed and the police checked the influx of faithful with checkpoints and metal detectors.

According to many of the faithful the authorities' commitment to the safety of Christians has created a different climate than in years past . "Last year we were afraid - Monica explains to Ahram Online - I'm not saying that we could not pray or anything like that. But we fear for the future of Christians. The President [ Morsi ] was turning into a dictator and was only interested in serving his group and Muslims". The woman describes the December 5 visit to the Abasseya Cathedral of the President Mansour Adly as a great gesture.  Adly is the first President to do so since the days of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser , who visited the cathedral in 1960.

In his Christmas message, the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church pointed to the significance of the visit of the Magi from the east, who offered gifts to the Infant King . For the patriarch these gifts represent human life "characterized by gold, incense and myrrh". "This - he said - means that everyone in his life has golden days, days, days of incense and of myrrh ." Thanking bishops, priests, deacons and lay people for their commitment to the Church, Tawadros said that "the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ gives us hope, courage and a new life".

The vigilant calm of Cairo and the rest of the country, however, was obscured by some attacks against Christians in Upper Egypt . Yesterday at Ezbet Treks in the province of Qena (Upper Egypt), a group of extremists threw stones at Coptic homes and burned one of their stores . The assault was triggered by an argument over the renting of a room. Bishop Kyrillos of Nag Hammadi stresses that the security forces were able to contain the tensions and the Nag Hammadi Police Commissioner Mahmoud Moawad convened a meeting with Muslim villagers to gather information on the facts and arrest the culprits.

 

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