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http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2011-02-15-egypt14_ST_N.htm?csp=24

In Magdi Shnouda's cafe in Cairo, there are pictures of Jesus and the saints up on the shabby walls, and the men playing backgammon and dominoes are a mixture of Christians and Muslims.


By Alice Fordham, USATODAY

Egypt has about 8 million Christians, the largest Christian population in the Middle East. Most of them belong to the Coptic Orthodox church.


Sucking down glasses of sweet tea and strong coffee, they drape arms around one another and talk of how well they get along. They live in the same neighborhood, which is dotted with mosques and churches, and grew up side by side like brothers, they say.

Another thing they agree on is the glory of the revolution, which saw President Hosni Mubarak toppled last week after 17 days of protests. Now that Mubarak is gone, Egypt's military rulers called for an end to strikes and protests Monday as thousands of state employees demonstrated to demand better pay.

LEADERSHIP: Ideology shadows fight to rule Egypt
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FAITH: Egypt, freedom and Mohammed's birthday
Though more work remains, the crowd at Shnouda's is optimistic.

"It's excellent what's happening," said Nasraddin Mustafa, 55, a decorator and friend of Shnouda. "Christians and Muslims are the same ... there will now be more safety and more friendship between Christians and Muslims."

Egypt has about 8 million Christians, the largest Christian population in the Middle East. Most of them belong to the Coptic Orthodox church — the word Coptic means Egyptian — and they believe they have had a presence in Egypt for 2,000 years.

During the demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo, many Christians joined in, protecting Muslims from aggressive police and Mubarak supporters while they prayed. Christian doctors manned some of the first aid stands, and posters with a crescent moon and a cross proclaimed unity.

The revolutionary solidarity in Shnouda's cafe was shaken when the subject of the Muslim Brotherhood came up. "If the Brotherhood take control, I will be the first to leave the country," said Baha al-Rashid, 40, a driver playing backgammon.

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MILITARY: Rulers promise elections
PHOTOS: Revolution in Egypt
The Brotherhood, a long-standing and strictly Islamic political party, is the country's most organized opposition group. Some Christians fear that if it gains more influence, it would impose sharia, or Islamic law, and forbid them from building churches or practicing their faith.

"Neither Christians nor Muslims like them, because they are a group with their own ideas, but the rest of the Muslims are good with Christians," said Eid Ibrahim, 41, also a driver and a Christian.

Coptic Christians, from the Egyptian branch of Orthodox Catholicism, share their concerns. Sunday, there were christening parties, and worshipers lingered after services in St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo.

As they petted babies and chatted, they agreed that a new Egypt is a good thing but there could be problems ahead for the country. They were reluctant to give their names, a reminder that Christians here face an uncertain future after a turbulent recent past.

In the largest of many attacks against Christians last year, a car bomb in the northern city of Alexandria killed 21 people in December at a Christmas ceremony. Angry Christians pelted a local mosque with stones, set cars alight and were dispelled by riot police.

Christians have long complained that they are shut out of some government jobs and treated as second-class citizens.

"In the last year, there has been a lot of demonstrations," said David Samuels, 31, a master's student and a Christian, speaking in a bar near the upscale Heliopolis area of Cairo. "They were protesting because of anger and discrimination against them."

Many Christians say they suspect government involvement in the attacks in an attempt to stoke sectarian feelings and keep Egyptians divided.

"When the demonstrations started, I doubted that what would happen in Tunisia would happen here," Samuels said. "But then I understood that there was real anger and people were talking about being Egyptian, not about being Christians or Muslims, and my Muslim friends were angry that the government was making conflict between Christians and Muslims worse."

Despite the euphoria, he, too, is nervous about the Brotherhood. "I read a lot about the history of the party," he said. "They know there are a lot of bad vibes against them, so they will first try to get to the top of all the syndicates and then come to power, which would be the worst for Christians, worse than it was before.

"Christians have been raised on fear, and they are always afraid."

In Shnouda's cafe, the owner was quiet as his friends chattered on about the revolution, about how the political elite who stole all the money had gone, how Egypt was entering a time of more freedom and how the new government would not try to divide Christians and Muslims as the old one did.

Asked whether he agreed that the government would bring people closer, Shnouda paused. "Come and ask me this question in a year," he said. "We hope it will be better, but we don't know anything."
 

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"Despite the euphoria, he, too, is nervous about the Brotherhood. "I read a lot about the history of the party," he said. "They know there are a lot of bad vibes against them, so they will first try to get to the top of all the syndicates and then come to power, which would be the worst for Christians, worse than it was before."i

Interesting that he can outline the likely scenario that will leave Christians worse off. I think his outline will come to pass. Once the dust settles and the power struggles begin, Christians will be left out in the cold since they are less than 10% of the population.
 

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Interesting that he can outline the likely scenario that will leave Christians worse off. I think his outline will come to pass. Once the dust settles and the power struggles begin, Christians will be left out in the cold since they are less than 10% of the population.
:agree:
 
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