Thursday,22 February, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1315, (13 -19 October 2016)
Thursday,22 February, 2018
Issue 1315, (13 -19 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Maspero anniversary: ‘An eerie silence’

Michael Adel on commemorations marking the killing of Coptic activists in front of the state television and radio headquarters

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Five years ago 28 Coptic demonstrators were crushed beneath the wheels of armoured vehicles in front of the Television and Broadcast Building in Maspero, Downtown Cairo. They had gathered to protest against the destruction of a church in the Marinab district of Aswan but as the evening progressed cries of anguish, not of protest, filled the air.

To mark the tragedy Coptic, youth movement and rights activists had planned to pay tribute to the victims by laying wreaths and lighting candles during a peaceful demonstration at Maspero. The Ministry of Interior, however, refused permission for the gathering.

On Sunday the Coptic Orthodox Church held a commemorative ceremony at the Archangel Michael Cathedral in Sixth of October City, which houses a monument to the victims. Anba Domadius, Bishop of Sixth of October, conducted a special mass on Sunday attended by many of the victims’ families who brought pictures of their children along with them and received condolences after the service.

After announcing the service was dedicated to the victims of incidents in Maspero, Al-Waraq and Imbaba, Bishop Domadius expressed his gratitude to all those present. Following the mass members of the Church Scouts Organisation staged a funeral procession, carrying pictures of those killed, to the cemetery in which they are buried.

Before the ceremony Pope Tawadros II said of the Maspero martyrs: “We cherish their memory as they convey our prayers to the Lord and we pay our condolences to all the families of the martyrs.”

Anba Rafael, secretary of the Holy Synod, chose to mark the anniversary with Biblical quotations on the place of martyrs in the heart of the Lord.

 Hani Ramsis, a member of the political bureau of the Maspero Youth Federation, attended the service in the Sixth of October Cathedral. “No one has the authority to grant or withhold the right to commemorate martyrs,” he said.

Hani Al-Gaziri, founder of the Egyptian Coalition of Copts, called on the government to recognise those killed at Maspero, as well as the victims of violence in Imbaba, Muqattam and Omraniya.

Mina Magdi, coordinator of the Maspero Youth Federation, said the Boulaq Abul-Ela police station had refused a request submitted to hold a commemorative ceremony in front of the Maspero building while activist Wael Kamal criticised the absence of government officials — Coptic MPs in particular — from the commemorative ceremony held in Sixth of October.

All in all, in Egypt at least, the fifth anniversary of the massacre was marked by an eerie silence. Elsewhere, the date occasioned higher profile ceremonies. The Coptic community in Canada organised a huge tribute beneath the banner “We will never forget you”. On Sunday 9 October the names of the martyrs were cited in prayers in more than 30 churches across Canada, from Vancouver and Alberta to Ontario and Montreal. Organisers of the memorial celebrations in Toronto and Mississauga, Ontario, called on residents to cherish the memories of those whose blood was spilled in front of the Maspero building in Cairo.

In Mississauga, Copts gathered in front of a memorial in honour of the Maspero victims. The organisers of the event had earlier announced that the commemoration would include speeches by visiting Coptic and Muslim guests and the laying of wreaths and lighting of candles in honour of the martyrs.

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