Europe's Bishops Call Continent to Defend Egypt Minorities

Reiterate Solidarity With Coptic Christian Community

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ST. GALLEN, Switzerland, OCT. 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Europe's bishops are answering Sunday's violence in Egypt with a call to their governments to take a stance in defense of minorities.

Cardinal Péter Erdő, president of the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe (CCEE), released a statement reiterating the prelates' "closeness to all citizens in Egypt, and especially to our brothers in the Coptic Christian community, affected in these days by the murderous violence against peace, harmony between religions, freedom and human dignity."

The statement follows the bloody weekend clash between Egyptian military and police and a group of mostly Coptic Christian protestors. The clash left 26 people dead. Witnesses said the Copts were attacked by crowds throwing stones, followed by military intervention. Some of those killed died of gunshot wounds, but most were crushed by armored military vehicles.

Copts and other Christians make up 10% of Egypt's population. The demonstrators were protesting the burning of a Christian church.

The bishops' council pointed out that Coptic Christians have been present in Egypt since the time of the Evangelist Mark. 

They urged European governments to "take a stance in defense of all those who, as Christians, are subjected to attacks because of their religious, ethnic or social belonging."

"We pray to the Lord for all Christians in Egypt, that he may give them the strength to continue to be authentic witnesses of Christ and of fraternity with all people, without which there will not be a better future for individual nations or humanity," the CCEE statement concluded.

Benedict XVI on Wednesday expressed his own concern over the situation. 

The Pope said, "I unite myself to the suffering of the families of the victims and to that of the entire Egyptian people, torn as it is by attempts to undermine the peaceful coexistence of its communities, [a coexistence] that instead, it is necessary to safeguard, especially in this moment of transition."