- (Photo: Reuters video)
Thousands of Coptic Christians arrived at the Church of the Virgin Mary in Cairo's Waraa neighborhood Monday to pay their respects to four victims who were shot and killed in the same building the night before during a wedding ceremony for three Coptic couples. The attack is the latest among increasing violence towards the Coptic minority from Islamic extremists in the country.
Various chants from funeral attendees could reportedly be heard as hundreds of Copts filed through the church's doors. "With our blood and souls, we will redeem the cross" some chanted as the four funeral caskets were about to be carried into the church, according to the Associated Press.
Some of those attending the tragic ceremony expressed anger towards Sunday night's shooters, yelling: "Justice or to die like them," and "Raise your head, you're Coptic."
Others, however, looked to the grace of God to calm their nerves during the difficult time: "Even in these circumstances, we can only talk of the heavens above and ask for the help of Christ," one member of the choir told those attending the funeral, according to USA Today.
Some Copts attending Monday's funeral became so angry and restless that at one point the presiding priest reportedly had to sternly tell everyone to remain silent among continual wailing and crying. "Those who cannot remain silent can step out for some fresh air. Let us show respect to our God and the dead," the priest said, according to AP.
On Sunday around 9 p.m., gunmen rode motorcycles past the Church of the Virgin Mary in Waraa as three Coptic weddings were taking place. A car blocked traffic in front of the church as the gunmen reportedly fired upon a family wedding party with automatic weapons. The attack lasted only minutes and resulted in the deaths of four, including a man, a woman, and two young girls, ages 8 and 12.
Sunday's attack proves to be the latest in a string of growing violence against the Coptic minority in the country. Copts argue they are being used as scapegoats by Islamic extremists for the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi; Copts have been more intensely targeted since Morsi left office earlier this year.
Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi condemned Sunday's attack along with other Egyptian leaders, including the top Sunni Islam cleric Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, and the National Alliance for Supporting Legitimacy and Rejecting the Coup, the umbrella group for Islamist parties.
Christians in the country are calling on the government to offer more protection to the minority group. One anonymous church leader said in a statement that these recent attacks are nothing short of satanic and are aimed at neutralizing Christian testimony: "We, Christians of Egypt, are facing a severe time of persecution and suffering that we may have not witnessed since the Roman times," the anonymous leader said.