Sectarian thugs attacked a funeral at the Coptic Christian cathedral in the Cairo suburb of Abbassiyya on Sunday.
Mourners attending a service for Coptic victims of sectarian violence in the town of Al-Khosous were pelted with stones and fired on by unidentified attackers.
Mostafa Bassiouny from the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt was among hundreds of activists who rushed to the Cathedral on Sunday night.
“When I got to Abbassiyya, the clashes had died down,” he told Socialist Worker.
“Waves of people who had come to show solidarity were beginning to arrive.
“When the extremists attacked the funeral the security forces just stood by. But when clashes escalated they responded by throwing tear gas into the church.”
Many people have been injured and at least one person has been killed.
“No one has claimed responsibility,” said Mostafa. “But it is likely that it was Salafists, not the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The revolutionary forces called for people to go and protect the church. Hundreds joined a solidarity march that started in the centre of Cairo.
“There will be other demonstrations in the next few days.”
Reports about the initial clashes in Al-Khousous in the state-run media have downplayed the role of sectarianism, claiming this was a dispute between local families.
However, the real issue is the oppression of Egypt’s Christians, explained Mostafa.
“Copts have suffered from discrimination for a long time in Egypt and there has been no real change since the revolution,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the rise of the Islamists to power has intensified their crisis. Officially nothing has changed. But the presence of the Brotherhood in government has encouraged the sectarianism of some of the Salafists.”
Unity between Muslims and Christians was very visible in the early days of the revolution. That tradition is still alive in the revolutionary movement.
But social crisis, a growing political space for sectarian politics and divide and rule tactics by the state pose a real threat.