Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox church headed by Pope Shenuda III on Monday blamed “infiltrators” for triggering clashes in which 24 people were killed, most of them Christian.
“The Christian faith denounces violence. Strangers infiltrated the demonstration and committed the crimes for which the Copts have been blamed,” the church said in a statement issued after Shenuda held a meeting with 70 church leaders.
“Copts have suffered repeated problems without accountability for the aggressors,” the statement said, calling on the authorities to “solve the root causes of the problems.”
Shenuda has called on the Copts to begin a three-day fast on Tuesday “to bring back peace to Egypt.”
Egypt’s Copts, who make up around 10 percent of the 80 million population, complain of systematic discrimination and have been the target of frequent attacks.
Since the fall of president Hosni Mubarak in February, tensions have also mounted between the ruling military — initially hailed for not siding with Mubarak — and groups which spearheaded the revolt.
Activists charge the army has been reluctant to carry out genuine reforms.