Five Egyptian Coptic Christians were injured Sunday in clashes with Muslims at a church in a village south of Cairo, security sources said.
The violence took place as Muslim villagers attempted to block access to the church as the Coptic faithful arrived from throughout the area to attend Sunday mass.
Calm was restored after police intervened, the official Mena news agency reported.
Such sectarian clashes are quite frequent between the Copts, who make up 6-10 percent of Egypt’s 83 million population, and Muslims, particularly in rural areas.
The latest violence came on the eve of a vote among Egypt’s Coptic Christians for a new spiritual leader on Monday after Pope Shenuda III died in March, leaving behind a community anxious about its status under an Islamist-led government.
Five candidates—two bishops and three monks—are vying to become the 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of all Africa on the Holy See of St Mark the Apostle.
A 2,500-member council made up of senior clergy, current and former Coptic public officials, MPs, local councilors and journalists will cast ballots to choose their preferred new pope.
Egypt’s Christians have regularly complained of discrimination and marginalization, even under the secular regime of president Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled last year.
The rise of Islamists since, and the election of the country’s first Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, have sparked fears of further persecution at home despite Morsi’s repeated promises to be a president “for all Egyptians.”