Reporting Steve Sandberg
JERSEY CITY, N.J. (1010 WINS/CBS 2) – Saint Mark’s Coptic Church in Jersey City was more crowded than usual for Sunday services with many Egyptian Americans praying for peace in their homeland after a nearly a week of violent, anti-government protests.
Sarah Nekhala has ten aunts and uncles in Cairo along with dozens of cousins. She said her relatives were all scared for their lives.
“It’s really heartbreaking because all of our loved ones are there and it’s just really scary. We called them yesterday and everyone’s just in panic,” Nekhala said.
Nekhala’s mother Mary said she wishes her family could all fly out of Egypt and move in with her in Jersey City for safety.
Many people attending services at Saint Mark’s also asked for prayers from all Americans — not just those with ties to Egypt.
“After 30 years of what they called a democracy, that was no democracy. We just need to pray real hard,” Magdolen Sleman said.
The uprising in Cairo came as no surprise to many Egyptian-Americans.
Egypt has had social, economic and political problems for years, some Jersey City residents told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg, and now the predicament reached its boiling point.
“Nobody can find a job. Nobody has an education,” one man said. “The food is very expensive. There’s no income. Right now it is so terrible in Egypt.”
Some said the road to peace needed to start with President Hosni Mubarek’s exit.
“He has no choice. I don’t know what to say. It’s really a price. All the people see the price. We have to pray. That’s what we have to do,” another man said.
Samir said 30 years is too long and Mubarek needs to go.
“The president, I think he has to go. He has been there for years and he couldn’t fix it,” he said.
Coptic Christians make up less than ten percent of predominently Muslim Egypt. While few people at Saint Mark’s on Sunday would say they were openly pro-President Mubarek, some said they feared what could lie ahead.
“Whoever comes after Mubarek would be considered as a source of terrorist. As a Coptic, we don’t believe that whoever comes after will give the church the same peace we have today,” Hany Hanna said.
Some even defended Mubarek.
“Every thing will be alright. It’s under control. Why [should] he step down? Nobody lives forever. He [Mubarek] said that,” he said.