World churches head condemns attacks on Christians in Egypt

(Photo: Reuters / Amr Abdallah Dalsh)Coptic Christian (L and C) and Muslim (R) women shout slogans against Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood in front of Cairo's main Coptic cathedral April 8, 2013. A second Egyptian died on Monday of wounds sustained in clashes at Cairo's Coptic cathedral the previous day in an outbreak of sectarian violence that the government and Muslim and Christian leaders sought to calm.

 The World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit has condemned the attacks against St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo and the killings of Christians in the village of Al-Khosous in Egypt.

'The sectarian conflicts and increasing tensions are a threat to the national security of the country and, above all, to Christian-Muslim coexistence in Egypt," Tveit said in an April 9 statement while pleading for sectarian peace.

Eight people have been killed and many injured over the last four days in one of the worst outbreaks of sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians since former dictator Hosni Mubarak was ousted in an uprising in 2011.

The latest clashes took place outside the St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo on Sunday.

That followed a funeral service for four Christians killed in sectarian violence the preceding before.

On the same day a Muslim was killed in sectarian violence in Khosoos, north of Cairo.

Of Egypt's 85 million people, about 90 percent are Muslims and 10 percent are Christians, most of them members of the Coptic Church.

The WCC head expressed concern at the situation faced by the Egyptian Coptic Church, a member church of the world council, which groups more than 500 million Christians from mainly Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant churches.

"It is our belief that the values brought by the Egyptian revolution should be the basis of a common future for all Egyptians, regardless of their religious identity and political views," said Tveit, a Norwegian Lutheran.

"We call on Egyptians, Christians and Muslims, especially the youth, not to be driven apart through sectarian tensions and conflicts."

Tveit urged the "religious leaders and authorities in the country to promote a language of fellowship and harmony, to foster initiatives that ease the tensions and revive a spirit of respect and mutual understanding within the Egyptian population."

The world churches' leader noted, "The Christian presence in the Arab world is an essential pillar of its identity.

"A thriving future is only possible through partnership and common action."

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