Inter-religious dialogue conference in Egypt  

Al-Arab on line 

A national conference on inter-religious dialogue is underway in the Egyptian town of Arment, in southern Qena province, bringing together some 2,000 leaders and members of the Muslim and Coptic Christian faiths from across the country.  

The conference was organised after violent clashes in the province in recent weeks between the two communities, following a marriage - rejected by the respective families - of a Christian and a Muslim.  

"The violence is rejected by the Coptic religion as it is by Islam," explained the bishop of Qena, adding that "from the mosques and from the churches a single voice must be raised up to the skies."  

Meanwhile, the local authorities have renewed the detention of seven people accused of having set fire to shops belonging to Copts and of having taken part in the clashes which exploded last week and have led to the death of countless people. 

There is still a strong police presence in the city of Arment, 600 kilometres south of Cairo, after three days of urban guerilla warfare, which concluded with various arrests last Wednesday .  

Coptic Christians represent an estimated ten percent of Egypt's 76 million population, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim.  The relationship between the two communities are generally peaceful but isolated episodes of violence sporadically renew latent tensions.  

Last April in Alexandria a Muslim stabbed a Copt to death on the doorsteps of a church, triggering bloody clashes in the coastal city. The Egyptian authorities have since decided that the killer was mentally unstable without however subjecting him to trial.