"These are the martyrs of these times and we can't forget them," said the acting patriarch of the Coptic Church at Wednesday's anniversary commemoration. "We are living a new era of martyrdom."
By Joseph DeCaro
CAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News)– One year ago this week, Christians who protested in Maspero, Cairo, still can't forget the events of that dark and deadly night.
"The area turned to darkness; all of a sudden there was shooting and people were running," Mary Daniel told International Christian Concern. "The guy next to me fell from a bullet to the neck. My sister and I were almost hit by a tank. People were screaming. We could hardly see because of the tear gas. The street was covered with blood. Many were dying, but we couldn't help them, or else we would die too."
Nearby, Mary's 25-year-old brother, Mina Daniel, was shot in the chest; he would become one of 26 Christians killed that night in what would be known as "Bloody Sunday."
On that Sunday, what began as a peaceful demonstration denouncing the demolition of St. George's Church in Aswan a week earlier was met by violence from an unexpected source: Egypt's own military.
Although Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces denied any involvement in the deadly demonstration, footage from cell phones showed armored personnel carriers crushing demonstrators under their wheels while soldiers fired into the crowd.
"It was a peaceful march," said Wagih Yacoub, "so why did they shoot real bullets on a peaceful people? We were going there just for two or three hours then we were going to leave. We want to worship in peace, that's all we want."
Last month, three soldiers were convicted and sentenced to several years incarceration for involuntary manslaughter, but the verdicts were condemned by human rights groups because the cases were tried in a military tribunal, not a civilian court.
"This sentence is neither fair nor sufficient," said Nabil Gabriel, a Coptic Human Rights lawyer representing five families of those killed at Maspero. "How can a military court rule in a situation where military personnel are accused in a civil case? Dividing a case into two pieces across military and civil courts is illegal."
George Mosaad, whose father Mahny died in the Maspero Massacre, said Christians have lived every day in agony over the loss of their family members.
"What adds to our torture is that justice has still not been served for those victims," he said. "The average Egyptians should always remember that innocent souls had taken to the streets demanding their rights, only to be met by attacks from the army they thought would protect them."