Coptic Church head urges unity in Egypt following sectarian violence

Coptic Pope Tawadros II, head of Coptic Orthodox church, gestures during an interview with Reuters in Cairo in this April 25, 2013 file photoReuters

Egyptians must unite in the face of violence, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church said on Thursday, following a series of sectarian attacks in which a number of Christians have been killed and others had their homes torched.

Pope Tawadros II was speaking after a meeting with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, during which the country leader urged all Egyptians to unite against "evil forces".

"We should not give the opportunity to those who exploit the events in a society which has 90 million people, and suffers from financial difficulties and shortage in financial resources, to affect our national unity because their goal is the destruction of our country," the Pope said.

The President had earlier warned against "attempts to drive a wedge" between Muslims and Christians in Egypt.

"When we talk about being partners, this means that we, as Egyptians, are equal in rights," he said during a military ceremony in Cairo.

"All of us are partners in this country. It is not appropriate to say this is an Egyptian Muslim and this is an Egyptian Christian. The rule of law is in place. Anyone who makes mistake will be brought to account by means of law, starting with president of the republic."

On July 16, five Christian homes were set alight in an village in Minya province after rumours spread that a church was to be built in the area.

A day later, a Muslim mob attacked two priests in Tahna El-Jabal village in Minya following a disagreement between Muslim and Christian children. A 27-year-old man died in the incident.

Recent weeks have also seen the assault on homes of Christian families in the village of Karm el Loofy, the burning of a kindergarten run by Christians in Minya, and the murder on June 30of Rafael Moussa, a Coptic Orthodox priest of the church of St. George. ISIS took responsibility for his murder, describing Moussa as a "disbelieving combatant".

Christians make up about one in 10 of Egypt's population of 90 million mainly Sunni Muslims