Egypt's new agency to fight sectarian violence welcomed by Church leader

A worker takes part in the renovation work of Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, October 28, 2018. Picture taken October 28, 2018.(Photo: Reuters/Shokry Hussein)

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK has welcomed the creation of a new committee in Egypt to tackle sectarian violence.

The Supreme Committee for Confronting Sectarian Incidents was formed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi following repeated attacks by Islamist extremists on the country's churches and minority Christian community.

It is to be headed up by Egypt's ex-Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar and has been tasked with 'developing a general strategy to prevent and confront sectarian incidents'.

Archbishop Angaelos said the committee, announced days before the Coptic Christmas on January 7, was a 'welcomed step for Egypt'.

'This strategic approach to determine, address and counter ideologies of intolerance and targeted attacks on Coptic Christian community has always been needed. Praying wisdom upon those involved, and peace and safety upon all,' he said. 

International Christian Concern's regional manager Claire Evans said tensions between Muslims and Christians in Egypt were often labelled as sectarian.

She welcomed the formation of the agency but said it would only be effective if Egypt's Christians are treated as equals in society. 

'It is also worth noting that Christians are regarded as second-class citizens in Egypt, which is officially an Islamic country although the constitution alleges to protect the rights of Christians,' she said.

'However, although most of the Middle East's Christians live in Egypt, they are given few opportunities to take an active role in their own government.

'This new committee, while a positive step forward, will have limited success if Christians are not allowed to be regarded as equals in their own country.'