Thousands of Egyptians assembled in Tahrir Square on Friday to celebrate "National Unity Friday" and call for an end to attacks against the Coptic Christian minority in Egypt.
Activists called for the protest in response to clashes between Christians and Muslims in the Cairo neighborhood of Moqattam on Tuesday. The clashes left 13 dead, eight of whom were Christians.
Observers said that a gang of thugs, thought to be affiliated with the formerly ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), attacked Christians in an attempt to incite sectarian tensions. Observers also accused elements of the state security apparatus of conspiring to burn a church in Atfeeh, southern Cairo, last week.
Sheikh Muzhir Shahin from Omar Makram mosque, who delivered today's sermon in Tahrir, warned against following those who want "to incite sectarian tensions and waste the gains of the revolution," by attempting to drive a wedge between Muslims and Christians.
Shahin expressed his deep sadness at attempts to pit Egypt's Muslims and Copts against each other, and called on the Egyptian government to open a bank account to collect donations from Muslims to build a replacement church for the village of Sol in Atfeeh in attempt to foster national unity.
There are "hidden hands that are trying to ruin the nation," and Christians must protect mosques as Muslims must protect churches, said Shahi.
Protesters' slogans called for unity and fraternity between Christians and Muslims, and accused NDP remnants and state security officers of inciting sectarian tensions, driving the country into a chaos, and aborting the January 25 revolution.