10/10/2011 09:17 EDT | Updated 12/10/2011 05:12 EST

Canada condemns sectarian violence in Egypt after 26 killed in Christian march

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has condemned the sectarian violence that has erupted in Egypt, including a deadly assault on Christian protesters in Cairo that left at least 26 people killed.

The clashes Sunday night began when about 1,000 Christians tried to stage a peaceful sit-in to protest an attack on a church.

The protesters said they were attacked by thugs with sticks and the violence then spiralled out of control after a speeding military vehicle rammed into the crowd.

It was the worst sectarian violence since the uprising that ousted Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak eight months ago.

Baird said in a statement Monday that religious extremism has no place in modern Egypt and urged all parties to work together to build a society where religious communities can live and prosper together.

Christians, who make up about 10 per cent of Egypt's 85 million people, accuse the ruling military council of allowing repeated attacks on Christians to go unpunished.

World leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, called on Egypt's military rulers to guarantee freedom of worship and emphasized the importance of religious plurality and tolerance.

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and a vital building block for healthy democracies," Baird said.

"People of faith must be able to practise and worship in peace and security.”