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Signs of the Times


As we went to press a wave of protests in Egypt was challenging the position of President Hosni Mubarak, with pressure coming from the country's Muslims and Copts as well as its secularists.

Signs that these forces might come together were evident in the celebration of the Coptic Christmas in January. A church in Alexandria had been bombed by Islamic extremists on New Year's Eve, killing 25 people, provoking further fears for Egypt's Christian community during the Nativity period. But a campaign initiated by Muslim cultural tycoon Mohamed El Sawy called on Muslims to act as protecting shields outside churches as Mass was celebrated.

'This is it. It is time to change and unite,' asserted journalist Ekram Youssef, who created the crescent and cross logo with the slogan 'A nation for all'. Thousands duly carried it in support.

'I'm here to tell all my Coptic brothers that Muslims and Christians are an inseparable pillar of Egypt's texture,' one Muslim attendee told the New York Times. 'Copts have to know that we will share any pains or threats they go through.'

Father Rafaeil Sarwat of the Mar-Mina church added a prophetic note: 'Although 2011 started tragically, I feel it will be a year of eagerly anticipated change, where Egyptians will stand against sectarianism and unite as one.'