Egypt’s Muslims Brotherhood attended for the first time a Coptic Christmas celebration in a Cairo church as millions marked the religious event on Friday.
The celebrations of Orthodox Christmas, which Egyptian Coptic Christians mark on Saturday, saw the attendance of high ranking Brotherhood officials and figures in al-Markasiya cathedral in al-Abasiya in Cairo.
But the atmosphere was solemn, vigilant and not overtly celebratory due to tight security following a bout of sectarian violence.
This was the first Christmas after escalated violence against the country’s minority in the wake of the protests that forced Hosni Mubarak out of office.
In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood’s group, who left the church before the start of the mass and had come to offer their wishes to Pope Shenouda III and allay fears about their political party, other high ranking officials also attended the ceremonies. The Salafis, however, were absent.
The mass saw 11 members from the country’s ruling military attend, as well as ministers of tourism, culture, electricity, and culture. Ambassadors and consulate heads also attended, most notably the U.S. ambassador in Cairo.
Pope Shenouda praised the military in his speech for its effort to maintain law and order in the country which was met with some anti-army slogans in the church but those were soon drowned out by other worshippers who clapped to show their support for the army.
Christians, who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million population, blame much of the violence on increasingly bold Islamists. A bloody crackdown by the country’s military rulers on a Coptic march in October has also sparked outrage.