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Egypt Copts call on president for protection

Sun Jun 15, 12:21 PM ET

AFP/File Photo: A 2007 file picture

shows his Holiness Pope Shenouda

III, the 117th Pope of the Seat of St.


CAIRO (AFP) - Egypt's Coptic church has used unusually strong language to call on President Hosni Mubarak to guarantee Christians' safety after a violent attack on a monastery in which four Copts were injured.

The Coptic Ecclesiastical Council called on Mubarak to prevent "more armed attacks on monks" and "insults to the cross," said a statement carried by Egypt's press on Sunday.

The move follows a land dispute involving a historic monastery which turned violent on May 31, leading to the death of a Muslim man who was reportedly attacking the monastery.

Four Copts, including two monks, were injured in the attack on the Abu Fana Monastery near the southern city of Minya.

Officials have sought to play down the incident, saying it was a personal rather than sectarian issue.

The clashes broke out when the monastery began building a wall around neighbouring property after receiving final approval earlier this year.

Muslim residents of the area claim the agricultural land on which the wall is being built as theirs, and say the structure damages their vital crops.

Egypt's Copts -- the largest Christian community in the Middle East -- account for an estimated six to 10 percent of the country's 76 million inhabitants and complain of systematic discrimination and harassment.

Tensions often run high between Egypt's Muslim and Christian communities in an increasingly religious society dominated by Sunni Muslims.

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