A non-governmental-run reconciliation session was held on Thursday afternoon in the town of El-Khosous in Qaloubiya governorate in an attempt to resolve the sectarian crisis the town has witnessed and that led to the death of at least four Christians and one Muslim local.
The session took place at a high school in the town and was attended by at least 20 dignitaries from Al-Azhar, the leading Sunni authority worldwide, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Salafi Call and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Qaloubiya Governor Adel Ziyad also attended the meeting.
El-Khosous was rocked by sectarian violence in the early hours Friday. Violence re-erupted Sunday afternoon following an attack on Cairo's main Coptic Cathedral during a funeral held for the Copts slain during Saturday's violence, leaving two more Christians dead.
Father Saorial Younan, the head of the Mary Gerges Church in Al-Khosous, told the crowd gathered at the site of a reconcilation dialogue session Thursday that Jesus urged his people to spread love.
“Without love we can’t live, without love we will be in a jungle,” Father Younan said.
He also told the crowd that Muslims and Christians have always lived together in Al-Khosous and no one can change this.
“Have we not eaten from the same plate and lived together?” he asked.
Al-Azhar Sheikh Hamouda Mohamed also spoke to the crowd, saying that Muslims and Christians are brothers in the nation. He related how he fought in the 0ctober 1973 war with his Christian partners. He also congratulated the crowd for trying to resolve the crisis in the town.
“The world has to see that Egypt is a safe country where national unity prevails and there is no discrimination between religions,” Sheikh Mohamed said.
General Mahmoud Yousry, the head of security in Qaloubeya governorate, told the crowd that what happened in Al-Khosous was abnormal.
“What happened is unusual and foreign to the ethics of the Egyptian people," he said.
Presidential aide and head of the Salafi Al-Watan Party, Emad Abdel Ghaffour, attended the session and urged Egyptians to protect their nation.
"You have to know the value of your country in the eyes of God," Abdel Ghaffour said. "It is the only country that has been mentioned in the three holy books: the Torah, the Bible and the Quran."
Reconciliation sessions are often used in Egypt to resolve sectarian issues, especially during the Mubarak era. These sessions have often been criticised by both Muslims and Christians for being an inadequate, informal means of resolving conflicts that require government intervention.