The leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church has criticised the country’s conservative president over his handling of the recent deadly sectarian violence, including an attack on the main cathedral in Cairo.
Pope Tawadros II said on Tuesday that President Mohamed Morsi had promised him in a telephone conversation to do everything to protect the cathedral, “but in reality he did not”.
Tawadros said Morsi’s attitude “comes under the category of negligence and poor assessment of events”.
The Coptic pope spoke in a telephone interview to a political talk show aired on the private ONTV network.
An angry mob of Muslims threw firebombs and rocks on Sunday at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo, leaving two Christians dead.
The attack followed a funeral service for four Christians killed in sectarian clashes in a town north of Cairo early the day before. A fifth person, a Muslim, was also killed.
It was the deadliest sectarian violence since Morsi came to office nine months ago as the country’s first freely elected president.
‘Action, not words’
Tawadros also criticised the president over his decision on Monday to revive a state body mandated to promote equality between Egyptians regardless of their religious and ethnic background.
“We want action, not words, and, let me say this, there are many names and committees but there is no action on the ground,” he added.
“Enough already of formations, committees and groups and whatever else,” Tawadros said.
Earlier on Friday, in some of the worst sectarian violence for months, four Christians and one Muslim were killed in El Khusus, north of Cairo, when members of both communities started shooting at each other.
Christian-Muslim confrontations have increased in Muslim-majority Egypt since the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 gave freer rein to hardline Muslims repressed under his rule.
Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader elected in June, had promised to protect the rights of Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 84 million people.
Christians have complained of attacks on churches by hardline Muslims, incidents that have sharpened long-standing Christian grievances about being sidelined in the workplace and in law.