Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II has called on Egyptians to prevent bloodshed and violence, as incidents of sectarian violence in the country continue to increase.
"With all compassion I urge everyone to conserve Egyptian blood and ask of every Egyptian to commit to self-restraint and avoid recklessness and assault on any person or property," Pope Tawadros wrote on his official Twitter account on Monday.
Incidents of sectarian violence took place in the Upper Egyptian cities of Minya and Beni Suef over the last few days, causing dozens of injuries. The number of incidents targeting Egyptian Christians has increased since Mohamed Morsi was ousted from the presidency on 3 July.
Pope Tawadros has cancelled weekly public meetings at St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo out of fear of potential violent attacks, a senior Coptic bishop told the BBC on Friday.
On Wednesday, a group of Egyptian human rights groups issued a statement accusing the Egyptian authorities of not doing enough to protect Christians, and said that leaders of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood were inciting religious hatred.
The pope's statement also comes following an announcement by the interior minister that security forces will be moving to disperse the ongoing pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo, as the government continues to accuse Morsi's supporters of committing "terrorist acts" against their opponents.
Local human rights organisations have warned that any dispersal of the sit-ins must observe legal limits and international standards, and must avoid excessive violence.