Egypt’s Coptic Church has lashed out against authorities Monday for the violent onslaught against Christians. At least 26 people, trying to stage a peaceful protest in Cairo, were killed by troops trying to squash the riots yesterday.
Pope Shenouda III, the spiritual leader of the Coptic Christian minority, declared three days of praying, mourning, and fasting for the victims starting Tuesday, AP has reported.
Sunday’s sectarian riots have been the worst Egypt has seen since Hosni Mubarak was ousted.
"Strangers got in the middle of our sons and committed mistakes to be blamed on our sons," the Coptic Church said in a statement. The church deplored the "problems that occur repeatedly and go unpunished."
Tension between Muslims and minority Coptic Christians erupted last night when around 1,000 Christian protesters, trying to stage a peaceful sit-in outside the state television building in downtown Cairo, were allegedly attacked by military forces as well as Muslim groups.
The protesters said they were beat with sticks – the violence quickly escalated when a speeding military vehicle drove directly in a crowd of people on the sidewalk, AP reported.
There is no exact breakdown of the number of Christians and Muslims among the victims killed, but it is believed that of the 26 – most were Christian.
According to state TV, the ruling military council called for an investigation by the interim government, Reuters wrote.
"This is a huge crisis that could end in a civil clash. It could end in dire consequences," presidential hopeful Amr Moussa told a news conference on the violence attended by leading politicians. "An immediate investigation committee must be formed, with immediate results."
One senior Western diplomat stated that a “big problem Egypt faces now is that, increasingly there is no one in power with the authority and credibility to calm the situation down.”
"After (Sunday's) events, there is an increasing risk that the military will come into conflict with the people. The authority of the prime minister is dangerously eroded. None of the presidential candidates yet has the standing," he added, according to Reuters.