A number of Coptic movements announced on Monday that they would be organizing a million-man protest on Friday, to be named the “Million-man Protest to Protect the Cathedral.”
The announcement came after thousands of Salafis organized a sit-in outside the Cathedral of St. Mark in Abbasseya on Friday. The protest, which reached all the way to the Papal Headquarters, was organized to demand the release of Kamilia Shehata, the priest’s wife who is thought to have converted to Islam but later held against her will by the Coptic Church.
Other Coptic groups also called for protests on Wednesday inside the Cathedral in conjunction with the Pope’s weekly sermon. The organizers, however, decided against the timing so as not to prevent Christians from attending the sermon.
Rami Kamel, a member of the Coptic group Maspero Youth Union (MYU), which is organizing the Friday protest, said that the aim is to protect and secure the cathedral, in anticipation of potential Salafi attacks.
The MYU includes a group of Coptic activists who staged a sit-in outside the Egyptian Radio and Television Union building to protest the demolition of the Two Martyrs’ Church in Atfeeh
Kamel said that, in light of the recurrent Salafi protests against the church, the existing security presence was no longer sufficient. The security forces only consist of around 50 soldiers and two armored vehicles, whereas the Salafis number in the thousands.
Kamel went on to say that for this reason, the MYU decided to take on the responsibility of protecting the cathedral themselves on Friday.
He said the group had sent a letter to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to inform it of the peaceful purpose behind the protest and to call on the military to provide security.
He said that the Coptic youth spontaneously organized the protest due to the “Salafis’ slandering of the Church and Pope Shenouda III.”
Translated the Arabic Edition