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With attacks on middle eastern and south Asian Christians apparently increasing in recent weeks, it is encouraging to read news like this: Egypt Muslims to act as “human shields” at Coptic Christmas Eve mass.

“Although 2011 started tragically, I feel it will be a year of eagerly anticipated change, where Egyptians will stand against sectarianism and unite as one,” Father Rafaeil Sarwat of the Mar-Mina church told Ahram Online. The Coptic priest was commenting on the now widespread call by Muslim intellectuals and activists upon Egyptian Muslims at large to flock to Coptic churches across the country to attend Coptic Christmas Eve mass, to show solidarity with the nation’s Coptic minority, but also to serve as “human shields” against possible attacks by Islamist militants.

Today is Christmas in the Coptic and Orthodox calendars. Let us wish our brothers and sisters in Egypt and elsewhere God’s blessings as they celebrate today the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Let us also give thanks that there are Egyptian Muslims willing to stand with their Christian fellow citizens against terrorist threats. It is a sign of hope in a part of the world where hope is so often in short supply.

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