CAIRO (AFP) -Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has sought to allay the fears of the Coptic community after violent communal clashes in Alexandria, in a message published to coincide with Orthodox Easter.
“Egypt is strong… and nobody can harm the unity that exists between Muslims and Christians,” Mubarak said in the message published in state-owned newspapers.
“They (Copts) enjoy all their rights as Egyptian citizens and are convinced that religion is for God and the homeland is for all,” he said Sunday.
On April 14, 78-year-old Noshi Atta Girgis was killed by a knife-wielding assailant who attacked three churches in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.
Another person died in ensuing clashes between Muslims and Copts, who account for only around 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 73 million but are the largest Christian community in the Middle East.
The authorities detained the assailant and described him as “mentally unstable”, sparking the ire of the Copts who accused the government of failing to protect them and seeking to cover up the possibility of an Islamist attack.
“We will punish the culprits, acting with determination and the strength of law,” Mubarak was quoted as saying, condemning the Alexandria attacks as “individual actions… seeking to sow discord between the sons of the nation.”
Pope Shenuda III, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox community, stooped short of directly mentioning the incidents in his Easter sermon on Saturday night.
“We wish peace and stability upon our nation under the leadership of President Hosni Mubarak,” he said.