In a move likely fueled by their growing political success, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which runs Egypt’s largest political party, announced plans to deploy guards to protect Christian churches during the upcoming Christmas holiday, which in Egypt is celebrated on January 6 and 7.
The Muslim Brotherhood said it was important to ensure that the Christmas celebration was carried out without incident. The Salafists, who run the second largest party, also promised to deploy “human shields” to protect the churches.
Egypt’s Christians have been considerably put upon over the past year, starting with a major attack in Alexandria in January, which leaked documents from the Mubarak regime showed had official government involvement and moving into October, when the post-Mubarak junta killed some 23 Christians in Cairo while urging “honest Egyptians” to save the nation from Christian protesters.
The violence in October is the source of continued anger in Egypt, as Coptic Pope Shahounda III announced he had invited members of the junta to Christmas mass. Protesters were reported outside of the Cathedral in Cairo condemning the invitation.
Interestingly, while liberal groups have courted the Christian minority with scare stories about impending oppression by the Islamist blocs, it is those Islamist blocs that appear to be making the most effort to improve relations with them, a move that will if nothing else add to calls for the junta to step down and allow the elected parliament to rule.