Coptic Christians in Egypt Rally for Secular Constitution, Civil Rights
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- Nearly 100,000 Christian Copts staged a rally today in Egypt. The rally began with a 5 mile march from the Coptic Shubra district to Tahrir Square. Many Muslims joined the march, as well prominent Coptic activists and heads of Coptic human rights organizations.

"We want to show everyone that Copts are present and have fair and lawful demands," said Father Mettias Nasr, one of the organizers of the rally. "We want a secular, democratic state, a constitution void of any religious clauses, and laws that prohibit discrimination."

The rally was organized by the Maspero Coptic Movement to commemorate the 40th day of the death of 9 Copts, who were killed by Muslims and the Egyptian army on March 9 in attacks on the Mokatam district, on the outskirts of Cairo. The remembrance cortege was in the form of a mobile pyramid with photos of the dead, accompanied by funeral military music and Coptic church scouts, who wore red, white and black shirts, the colors of the Egyptian flag.

Organizers raised banners demanding a new constitution that emphasizes the civil state, those responsible for torching and demolishing the church in Soul on March 5 (AINA 3-5-2011) and those who killed the Copts in Mokatam (AINA 3-9-2011) to be brought to justice.

Priests led the procession, showing photos of the Mokatam victims and of Coptic girls who disappeared without a trace, demanding the Supreme Council of the armed forces find the girls "because the authorities know who the abductors are" said Father Filopateer, an organizer. Demands were also made for the release of the 18 Coptic youths who participated in the Maspero Coptic Youth sit-in in March and who were arrested on March 17 by the army and sentenced to three-years in prison under false charges.

"We want our churches which were closed by the disbanded state security to be re-opened, people want to pray and the churches are closed," said Father Mettias.

Father Filopateer said "Anyone who attacks Copts is never penalized, matters are always settled through those ridiculous 'reconciliation' meetings, so the Copts are out today to say we have had enough of reconciliation meetings. We demand that anyone who attacks an Egyptian, whether Christian or Muslim, must be prosecuted. We are a country prosecuting its President, so how come those people are not brought to justice."

The march was originally scheduled to end at Maspero in front of the Egyptian TV building, but because of pro and anti Mubarak demonstration in Maspero, the Copts changed the route to end in Tahrir Square. During the long march, the procession was joined by many people along the way, with Copts holding crosses in their balconies, wishing them victory.

Activist Rami Kamel, member of the Maspero Youth Movement, told elMasry elYoum newspaper the rally aims at claiming Coptic rights, saying the only concession the Copts got after their nine-day sit-in at Maspero was the renovation of the church in Soul, which was handed over to the Coptic church this week. He said the military council did not honor all of its promises, such as bringing to justice the perpetrators of the Soul church attack or those who attacked the Copts in Mokatam, building of the Maghagha Bischopric and re-opening of churches closed for no stated reason by the authorities.

"We will continue to use legitimate means to put pressure on the military council until our demands are met," Kamel said.

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