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Hundreds Protest Violence Against Coptic Christians In Egypt

WESTWOOD (CBS) — Several hundred Coptic Christians outraged over the murders of Copts in Egypt and the burning of churches by Islamist fanatics protested in front of the Federal Building in Westwood Sunday.

"This is not sectarian violence, our people just want to live and be left alone," protest organizer Michael Makar said. "We're being attacked, and our churches are being burned."

Mainstream Islamic religious leaders in the U.S. and Egypt have decried recent violence against the small Coptic community in Egypt, which has resided there peacefully for millenia. Groups of hard-line conservative Islamists have seized upon the power vacuum following the Egyptian revolution, and have attacked the Coptic community.

Makar said people from Coptic churches acorss Southern California were converging on the Wilshire Boulevard office building for Sunday's protest. He is a member of the congreation of St. Mark's Coptic Church in Los Angeles.

Coptic Christianity started under the Romans in the 4th Century and was at one time the majority religion in Egypt. An estimated 10 percent of the population is Coptic today, according to a U.S. Coptic organization.

The Washington Post reported that dozens of Copts were hit by sniper fire Sunday at their encampment outside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where they have been protesting religious persecution for more than a week.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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