Head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II warned on Monday against the repercussions of recent sectarian violence, citing 37 assaults on Copts since 2013.
Tawadros delivered a speech while meeting with the parliamentary Religious Committee, following violent clashes between Muslims and Christians in Minya and Beni Suef last week.
Despite the state’s tendency to solve the conflicts “peacefully” through customary reconciliation sessions between elderly male religious clerics, Tawadros showed his concern about the rate with which these incidents are happening.
“In Minya, angry groups went out to burn a house claiming it is a church. This is not [just] a crime, but an intentional attack,” the Pope said.
Although starting his speech with nationalist rhetoric about Muslim and Coptic unity in Egypt throughout the last half century, the pope said that the fact there have been 37 attacks since 2013 is alarming and worrying.
“Egypt is known for the special coexistence between its Muslim and Christian population, and for not looking upon Copts as a minority,” he added. “This is being distorted in front of the world, and it’s our responsibility is to correct it.”
The Pope also criticised the reaction of the Coptic community in the United States for holding protests against the recent sectarian violence in Minya, adding that he asked them to stop protesting in vain.
He stated that the Copts did not show this anger when dozens of churches were burned and destroyed following the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in in 2013, but they are angry now with the current “minor attacks”.
On 17 July, the families of two priests from Minya were reportedly assaulted with knives by an angry mob, leaving one dead and three injured.
A more recent incident took place last week in the village of Edmo, also in Minya, where five people were injured from both Muslim and Christian parties, followed by the detention of individuals from both sides.
In May, an elderly Coptic woman was stripped of her clothes and dragged into the street by an angry mob. To date, no one has been held accountable for the incident, despite it stirring widespread public outrage. On the contrary, all defendants arrested in the case were released by prosecution authorities.