Cairo-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has warned against the dangers of using religion as a tool to cause disunity, in what were seen as strongly-worded remarks by Egyptian authorities against those using religion to ignite sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians.
During his meeting with the Coptic Orthodox Church’s Pope Tawadros II at the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace on Thursday, Sisi urged Egyptians to steer clear of efforts to cause a divide among Egyptians.
The meeting was attended by several officials from the Coptic Church.
A church source said that the talks were aimed at containing several crises that have recently taken a sectarian twist.
Church spokesperson Boulos Halim said that during the meeting, Sisi referred to “the challenges that Egypt currently faces,” adding that solving these problems will require a lot of patience and effort.
Tawadros in return, Halim said, reiterated the church’s commitment to achieving national unity.
Thursday’s meeting came several days after controversial remarks were made by Pope Tawadros, during which he said: “Until now the church has been able to pacify Copts … but it won’t be able to control their anger for long.”
Egypt witnessed one of the worst sectarian violence in 2013 when 46 churches in different governorates, 66 percent of which are located in Minya, were burned.
Minya also recently witnessed repeated sectarian tension, which has left many casualties, prompting Copts to accuse the Egyptian authorities of resorting to religious costums and not seeking to settle any confessional crisis legally.
The church source said that Christians in Egypt are making attempts to swiftly find a solution to sectarian strife and prepare a draft-law that criminalizes discrimination in accordance to the constitution.
The source stated the church has recently received a report on sectarian attacks, saying 37 incidents have taken place in Minya alone since 2013, in an average of one attack per month.
Halim also said that during Thursday’s meeting, the church delegation thanked Sisi for his intervention to achieve consensus on regulating the building of churches.