(CNSNews.com) – Rain and dozens of armed Capitol police setting up barriers did not dampen the enthusiasm of hundreds of Coptic Christians who showed up on Wednesday to show support for their fellow believers in Egypt.
Protesters said the persecution and killing of Christians in Egypt has happened for centuries, but the slaying of more than 20 Coptic Christians by the Egyptian army in Cairo on Oct. 9 marks the deadliest attack since the “Arab spring” uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
The deadly incident, caught on video, shows demonstrators protesting in front of the state television station being mowed down by military vehicles.
“We want justice for the killing of our Coptic brothers in Egypt,” Shawky Boulos, who came from New York for the protest, told CNSNews.com. “We want justice now.”
Protesters ranged from families with young children to church youth groups who came on buses for the event.
Peter Maurice, who traveled from New Jersey for the protest, told CNSNews.com that the United States should continue to provide financial support for Egypt.
“If the U.S. is not funding, they don’t have the influence,” he said, adding that Congress should ensure that any funding is tied to Egyptian authorities meeting certain criteria, including protection of human rights and religious tolerance.
Christians face an uncertain future as a new government takes shape in Egypt, with no guarantees that religious minorities will be protected from Islamic radicals who have regularly targeted Coptic Christians, their churches, homes and businesses.
Twelve Copts were killed by Muslim extremists in Cairo’s Imbaba district last May. Almost 200 were injured in that incident and two churches and a residential building were torched.
As CNSNews.com reported earlier, revisions to Egypt’s constitution will likely leave intact an article upholding Islam as the state religion and Islamic law “as the principal source of legislation.”
Following the Oct. 9 killings, the White House issued a statement expressing renewed U.S. support for religious freedom and peaceful protest in Egypt.
“As the Egyptian people shape their future, the United States continues to believe that the rights of minorities – including Copts – must be respected, and that all people have the universal rights of peaceful protest and religious freedom,” it said. “These tragic events should not stand in the way of timely elections and a continued transition to democracy that is peaceful, just and inclusive.”
Copts are the biggest Christian minority in the Middle East, representing about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 85 million.
Estimates of the Coptic community in the United States range from 300,000 to one million.