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Local Copts demonstrate in wake of deadly bombing in Egypt

Carrying crucifixes and pictures of Jesus, protesters gather in front of the Federal Building in Westwood and call on U.S. officials to pressure the Egyptian government to provide security for that country's Christian minority.

January 03, 2011|By Mike Anton, Los Angeles Times
  • Carrying signs and crucifixes on a rainy Sunday, demonstrators protest outside the Federal Building in Westwood. They were responding to the deadly New Year's Day bombing of a Coptic Christian Church in east Alexandria, Egypt. They called on U.S. officials to pressure Egyptian authorities to provide security for the Christian minority in that country.
Carrying signs and crucifixes on a rainy Sunday, demonstrators protest… (Ringo H.W. Chiu, For the…)

Under a steady cold rain, members of the region's Coptic Christian Egyptian community demonstrated in Westwood on Sunday in the wake of a New Year's Day church bombing in Egypt that killed 25 and injured dozens more.

Carrying crucifixes, pictures of Jesus and handmade signs that drooped in the rain, the demonstrators gathered in front of the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard and called on U.S. officials to pressure the Egyptian government to provide security for that country's Christian minority.

President Obama condemned the killings as "outrageous." But protesters said more can be done because Egypt is a major recipient of U.S. economic aid.

"Talk is cheap. What we need is action," said Mike Azer, an organizer of the demonstration and host of a television talk show directed at the local Coptic community. "The Egyptian Christian faith faces a lot of persecution, and the internal authority there does not want to solve this problem.

"We need to get a message to our federal government, to our State Department, that they need to pressure the Egyptian government to stop this violence and stop the terrorists. All we are asking for is equality and safety in Egypt."

Egyptian authorities believe a suicide bomber caused Saturday's attack as congregants were leaving Saints Church in east Alexandria. The attack was among the deadliest on Egyptian Christians in recent memory and follows a series of lethal assaults targeting Christian communities in the Middle East and Africa.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said "foreign fingers" were behind the attack. Coptic Christians make up about 10% of Egypt's 80 million people and have long criticized the government for tolerating violence against them.

About 75,000 to 80,000 Copts live in the Southland, Azer said. Demonstrators arrived Sunday on buses from churches throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties.

"Yes, the weather's bad," Azer said, shrugging it off as an inconvenience. "But it's a bad day for a lot of people."

mike.anton@latimes.com

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