By Joseph C. DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
CAIRO, Egypt (Worthy News)-- Thousands of Copts protested against Egyptian security forces as they attempted to stop the construction of St. Mary in Talbiya despite having the necessary building permits.
The Copts vowed to remain in the church while secuity forces encircled the outside of the building.
"Even if President Mubarak himself comes, the church building will go on," said Mansour el-Sharkawy. "They are just finding excuses to put their foot in, then start demolishing the church."
Protesters claimed that the area was filled with unlicensed mosques, but after Copts obtained a permit to build a church, the Egyptian government suddenly found an excuse to stop them.
The standoff began after local authorities found that the builders were constructing a second staircase, which they considered to be in violation of the building permit.
"It was the Civil Defense authorities who asked the church to erect a second staircase to relieve congestion inside the church in case of emergencies," said Shehata, so the necessary permit amendments were made. If a fire broke out, how do you get hundreds of people out of church with just one staircase?"
After the authorities left, five priests and the contractor unsuccesfully tried to resolve the issue as large numbers of security forces arrived to stop further church construction.
"As a means of intimidation, the forces tried to break the church door down, arrest the builders and take away the children," said Shehata. "They wanted to get the women out of the building, so that they can arrest the builders and church youth who were helping them. They are just finding excuses to prevent the building of the church."
Coptic activist Miriam Ragey said, "The moment the Muslims saw the Church domes being built, they went mad."