By: Ali Omar
Interim president Adly Mansour met Sunday with Pope Tawadros II to convey the government’s support and acknowledgement of upcoming Christmas celebrations. Tawadros II called Mansour’s visit, the first ever of its kind, a “beautiful message” to all Egyptians.
The visit, which took place at Abbasiya Cathedral, the Coptic papal seat in Cairo, comes two days before Egypt’s 10 million Christians, roughly ten percent of the country’s population, are due to celebrate Christmas.
State-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported presidential spokesman Ambassador Ihab Badawi as saying Mansour was “keen to show Pope Tawadros II the appreciation of Egypt to all the efforts of the Coptic citizens who have been working for the welfare and interest of the country”.
Al-Ahram also reported that Mansour’s visit was meant to reinforce unity between Egypt’s Muslim majority and their minority counterparts.
Tensions have been stretched to a near breaking point after Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, which led a number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders to blame Christians for organising protests against the former president.
Sectarian violence has been on the rise since Morsi’s ouster on 3 July. Immediately following General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s army-backed takeover, dozens of Christian properties were attacked and churches burned. On 20 October, masked gunmen opened fire on a wedding celebration outside the Virgin Mary Church in al-Warraq, killing five.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Hany Abdel Latif said on 29 December that “high” security measures would be undertaken for New Year’s and Christmas celebrations.
On New Year’s Eve, minor clashes erupted where 23-year-old Ihab Ghattas was shot outside Mar Girgis church in Ain Shams. He later died from his injuries.