Why was the tight security necessary? Because of right-wing “extremists,” no doubt. “Egypt’s Christians celebrate Christmas amid tight security, but in upbeat mood,” from the Associated Press, January 6 (thanks to Pamela Geller):
CAIRO — Millions of Egyptian Christians thronged churches across this mainly Muslim nation for Christmas Mass, held Monday amid unusually tight security but with congregations filled with hope ahead of a key vote on a new constitution that enshrines equality and criminalizes discrimination.
The stepped up security was in response to fears that Islamic militants loyal to ousted President Mohammed Morsi would target churches. Islamists claim that Egypt’s Christians played a disproportionately large role in the mass protests that preceded Morsi’s ouster in a July 3 coup.
Many churches, especially in southern Egyptian strongholds of radical Muslims, held Midnight Mass several hours early so that worshippers could avoid returning home after midnight when streets are empty, raising the possibility of attacks.
A wave of attacks blamed on Islamists in August left dozens of churches destroyed, burned or looted. Christian homes and businesses were also targeted.
“We will pray under the night sky,” said Adel Shafiq, a Christian from the town of Dalga south of Cairo, who was attending Mass in a church looted and burned in August. “There is no roof and no windows. People are here wearing scarves and hats to fend off the night cold.”
At Cairo’s St. Mark’s Cathedral, seat of the Coptic Orthodox pope, police armed with machine-guns manned sandbag positions outside the towering structure. Hours before Mass, sniffing dogs were deployed to ensure there were no explosives planted inside.
During the service, plainclothes security men stood guard just yards (meters) from the altar to keep an eye on the congregation as Coptic Pope Tawadros II led the prayers. Cabinet ministers, army generals and politicians, mostly Muslims, attended the service.
“We pray for the safety, peace and calm of Egypt and we pray for every man on its kind land,” Pope Tawadros said in a brief sermon. “We have total confidence that God is watching over our nation even at the time of crisis.”
Elsewhere in Cairo and other main cities, streets leading to large churches were sealed off and checkpoints were set up in areas with sizable Christian communities as armored army and police vehicles roamed the streets.
Metal detectors were placed at the entrances of many churches, where volunteers searched bags and demanded to see IDs, leading to the formation of long lines outside churches.
The tight security appeared to do little to dampen spirits, however….