Islamists join Orthodox celebrations

EGYPT’S Christians yesterday celebrated their first Christmas after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, amid tight security and a display of national unity to allay fears of the growing power of Islamists.

The Coptic Orthodox celebration follows an escalation in violence against the minority – an estimated 10 per cent of Egypt’s 85 million people – over the past year.

Many Christians blamed a series of street clashes, assaults on churches and other attacks on radical Islamists who have become increasingly bold after Mubarak’s downfall.

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Celebrations of Orthodox Christmas began with a late night Friday Mass at Cairo’s main cathedral, which was attended by prominent figures from across Egypt’s political spectrum.

They included leaders of Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group whose associated political party has won nearly half the seats in parliament.

Members of the ruling military council that took power after Mubarak’s downfall also attended, including chief of staff Lieutenant General Sami Anan, as well as the visiting top US diplomat for the Middle East, Jeffrey Feltman.

Coptic Pope Shenouda III commended their presence. “For the first time in the history of the cathedral, it is packed with all types of Islamist leaders in Egypt,” he said.