Muslims, Christians Clash, Cairo Church Torched

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Police in Egypt have detained 23 people in connection with weekend clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians that left 12 people dead and a church in Cairo burned, according to a security official.

The latest bloodshed reportedly began when a rumor spread that a Christian woman who married a Muslim was being held in the Virgin Mary Church. Local religious leaders have not confirmed that report.

"They were around 40 bearded men chanting slogans like 'There is no God but Allah.' After rallying Muslim residents, they opened fire," Rimon Girgis, a 24-year-old with a tattoo of a Coptic saint on his arm, told the Associated Press.

CBN News International Correspondent George Thomas talked more about this latest outbreak of violence between Egypt's Muslims and Christians, and how it will affect the country's democracy plans.  Click play to watch.

Girgis was among a group of Copts who formed a human shield around the church.

"We Copts had to respond, so we hurled stones and pieces of broken marble," he said.

According to witnesses, Egypt's military made no move to intervene in the five-hour skirmish, and one Christian leader said they couldn't reach ambulances by phone.
  
Over the past few months, Muslim extremists known as Salafis have been increasingly hostile toward Egypt's Coptic community.  As with Sunday's incident, the country's military rulers have done little to stop the attacks.

Meanwhile, analysts warn there are signs that Coptic violence is on the rise.

"The Coptic volcano is exploding," Coptic expert Youssef Sedhom said. "How would Copts respond if they find their back to the wall facing guns? They would have no option but self-defense."

"Don't blame Copts for what they do," he added.

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