Coptic Pope says Egyptian Christians' problems are 'minor', warns against 'harmful' exaggeration

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II has sought to reassure Egyptians fearing the situation in northern Egypt, where 143 families have fled their homes to escape the threat of ISIS.

'What happened in El-Arish is a pressure card aimed at dividing the country. These criminal acts of terror are temporary and will be solved soon,' Tawadros said in an interview on Egypt's CBC news channel, according to Ahram Online.

Hundreds fled the coastal city of El-Arish, Sinai in late February following an increasing terror threat from ISIS against the Coptic Christian community. Bishop Angaelos, the head of the Coptic church in the UK, said Copts in the area were essentially told to 'leave or die'. Most of the displaced people found refuge in the governate of Ismailia, given ad hoc shelter and provisions courtesy of churches and other groups in the area.

Tawadros said those who had fled would return there 'when the time is right', adding that 'The state is taking care of the El-Arish issue.' He said 'it was wise of the families who felt danger to leave', because 'during the 1967 war, entire governorates were displaced'.

Tawadros suggested the some of the media's framing of the violence against Christians may have been unhelpful and could have exaggerated the crisis. He said one attack in one village out of 5,000 is a 'small wound', emphasising that the problems Egyptian Christians broadly face are 'minor' and that overall 'the body is healthy'.

'There is anger, and I understand it, but the problem is the media presents the news in an exaggerated and harmful way, and this makes Copts, especially abroad, more anxious,' he said.

In December, ISIS claimed responsibility for a Cairo Coptic church bombing that killed 27. In February, the jihadist group released a video inciting violence against the 'infidel' Christian faith community. At least seven individuals have been murdered by militants in northern Egypt since January 30, with victims being burned alive, stabbed in their sleep and shot in the street.

Egypt's Christians – mostly Orthodox Copts – represent about 10 per cent of the country's majority Muslim population.