Egypt’s Christian minority in sombre mood for Easter holiday

Ragaay prays and lights a candle in front of a wooden figure of Jesus in her home at the Cairo suburb of MaadiMembers of Egypt’s Christian minority flocked to church on Friday but two church bomb attacks on Palm Sunday that killed 45 people have left many in a sombre mood over Easter.

Worshippers from the nearly 2,000-year-old Coptic Christian community attended church services, but the holiday to mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ was being observed in subdued fashion, according to church officials.

In the city of Alexandria, Christians congregated at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, historic seat of the Coptic Pope, to attend Good Friday prayers. Worshippers passed through a metal detector at the building entrance, where one of the bombs went off.

Rafiq Bishry, head of the church’s organizational committee, said he was surprised that so many people had come.

“We expected that people would be too scared to attend prayers but there was no need for our expectations because there are a lot of people here,” he told Reuters Television.

“This is a clear message to the whole world that we are not afraid,” he said.

Last Sunday’s attacks in Alexandria and the city of Tanta were claimed by Islamic State, which has been waging an insurgency against soldiers and police in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

The group has now stepped up assaults on Christians and warned of more attacks to come. It has claimed to have killed 80 people in three church bombings since December.

Maha Ragaay, a Coptic Christian teacher who lives in Cairo, said she had avoided watching television on Palm Sunday, afraid of seeing the bloody images broadcast after the bombings.

FULL ARTICLE FROM REUTERS

Egyptians respond to ISIS church bombings: ‘Your terrorism brings us together’

Dozens-dead-in-Palm-Sunday-bombings-in-Egypt

(CNN) Egyptians of different faiths rallied together on Sunday in defiance of ISIS, after the group claimed responsibility for two Coptic Christian church bombings hundreds of miles apart.

The attacks left at least 43 dead and dozens more injured, amid grim scenes of hollowed-out churches, with body parts and blood scattered among the debris.
Outraged Egyptians posted messages of solidarity with members of the embattled religious minority on social media, using a hashtag that translates to “your terrorism brings us together.”
On Sunday night, protesters gathered outside Alexandria’s St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral to condemn the attacks, criticize the government’s response to persecution of Copts and demand the resignation of the interior minister.
Egypt church attacks
  • ISIS claims responsibility for church attacks
  • Egyptians respond to ISIS church bombings: ‘Your terrorism brings us together’
Sunday’s bombings came nearly four months after a suicide bomber killed 23 people in a Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Cairo. Copts, who make up about 10% of Egypt’s 91 million residents, have been the target of increased persecution and discrimination since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011.
Despite tensions between the groups, the country’s Muslim community has frequently shown support for Christians following acts of violence. Images on social media showed Muslims gathering inside mosques Sunday to donate blood for victims.

Explosions rock 2 Egyptian churches, killing dozens and injuring scores more

05899031A reminder why the development of positive inter-religious relationships is so crucial as a counter to the violence that finds too easy justification with the radical fringe. 

 Two bombs rocked churches packed with worshippers in the Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria on Sunday, killing at least 36 and injuring scores more. The assaults were the latest in a spate of attacks targeting Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority and come ahead of a scheduled visit by Pope Francis to Egypt.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for both bombings through the Amaq news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamist militant group. Egypt’s Christian minority, who make roughly 10 percent of the population, have increasingly been targeted by Islamist extremists.

The first blast in Tanta, 80 miles north of the capital, Cairo, unfolded around 9.30 a.m., during a Palm Sunday service at St. George’s Church. The bomb, police said, was planted in the pews of the church.

Less than three hours later, a second blast erupted near Saint Mark’s Church in the northern city of Alexandria. The head of Egypt’s Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, was presiding over the Palm Sunday Mass at the church, and his fate remained unknown.

The Health Ministry says 36 people have been killed in the attacks, 25 in Tanta and 11 in Alexandria, but the death toll is widely expected to rise.

Both churches were packed for Palm Sunday services. After the attack in Tanta, photos appeared on social media, showing bloodstained walls and shattered wooden pews. Many of the dead were believed to be children, according to initial local media reports.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Coptic (Christian) Bishop: ISIS Targets Us in Egypt to Divide Christians and Muslims

HG_Bishop_AngaelosBishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox bishop and advocate for religious freedom, said Christians everywhere offer the world a response that reflects the Christlike witness of their brothers and sisters in Egypt.

LONDON — More than 40 Christians in Egypt, known as Copts, have been deliberately slaughtered for the faith in the past three months alone by militants aligned with the Islamic State terror group, which has been waging a brutal five-year war against Egypt’s forces in the Sinai Peninsula.

As ISIS’ self-proclaimed “caliphate” collapses in Syria and Iraq, it has whipped up its supporters in Sinai to persecute Coptic Christians, their “favorite prey,” forcing many to flee their ancestral homeland, where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the Holy Family fled, seeking refuge from the terror of Herod the Great.

Egypt’s government has called for national solidarity and condemned these attacks on its Christians. In December, President Fattah el-Sisi and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II walked together in a state military funeral procession ordered for 29 Copts, mainly women and children, brutally murdered by a suicide bomber at St. Peter’s Church in Cairo.

Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church of the United Kingdom and a spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, as well as an advocate for religious freedom, told the Register in an interview that Egypt’s Christians need the solidarity of their fellow Christians around the world.

He explained Christians elsewhere also need to honor and embrace the Christlike witness of Egypt’s Christians in the face of these terrorist attacks, which are aimed at destroying Christian-Muslim cohesion, and pray for the conversion of their persecutors.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER 

I’m So Tired

cropped-capa-blogNote:  This is from a blog  I just discovered challenging stereotypes about Muslims and other minorities.    Good place to visit often. 

“What do you think of ISIS?” Smile. Be calm. Be gentle. “Don’t Muslims believe you’re supposed to kill Christians and Jews?” They don’t mean any harm. They don’t know any better. “Do you shower with that on?” Laugh. Take it in stride. “Does your husband make you wear it?” It’s ok. It’s just a question. “I’m not islamophobic. After all, I’m friends with you!” Smile, laugh. Be quiet. You have to give a good impression. You’re the token Muslim, whether you like it or not. These are my thoughts when my dignity is taken away.

It’s so tiring to always be representing 1.6 billion people from all over the world. As soon as people find out I’m Muslim, which generally is pretty quickly because I wear the hijab, they think they have the right to ask me invasive questions. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about friends who ask sincere, curious questions hoping to learn more about me and my faith. I’m talking about random strangers who interrupt my meal in a restaurant to demand information in an accusatory tone. There is a huge difference between the two.

A good example of this is my friend K. She and I often have conversations about faith and culture. She asks a million questions, and they’re all sincere and respectful. She often reminds me that if I don’t feel comfortable answering, that’s ok. THAT is actually wonderful. She wants to understand me. I love answering her questions.

On the flip side, there’s an incident that happened yesterday. I went to a local gyro joint for a nice Arab meal. The cashier, who I later found out was the owner, asked me why I was wearing a headscarf. I told him I was Muslim. He said he was an Egyptian Christian. I said “Assalaamu alaikum,” and he said “wa alaikum salaam.” We exchanged smiles. I took my food and found a seat. I dug in. A few moments later he pulled a chair up to mine and my husband’s table. He started by asking me why I converted, and I gave him the condensed version of the story. He proceeded to tell me I didn’t understand Christian theology, I didn’t know God and couldn’t know Him or love Him. He told me that ISIS were Muslims, the Quran teaches violence, and Islam is a cult. I patiently gave him simple but logical refutations to his horrible comments. He went on and, during our entire meal.  My husband, I should add, stood up for me and told him off. But I knew I couldn’t say anything.

FULL BLOG FROM GENUINEGEMSWRITING 

‘I spent the night at my Muslim friends”: Christians flee Islamic State in Sinai

1488171939180Ismailia, Egypt: Some fled with little more than the clothes they were wearing, terrified that the militants of Islamic State would come for them next.

For a fourth day on Sunday, Coptic Christians – one of Egypt’s most vulnerable minorities – sought safe haven after a series of sectarian killings in and near the town of Arish, in Egypt’s rugged Sinai Peninsula.

Some 95 families have arrived in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, 120 kilometres east of Cairo, church officials said. Frightened, hungry and tired, they are being sheltered in private homes and – belatedly – at government accommodation.

“There were many killings and threats of further violence,” said Kirollos Ibrahim, a priest at the Coptic Church of Ismailia, which has aided the displaced. “God has helped us, and we are finding brothers and sisters to stand by us.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD 

A Medieval Antidote to ISIS

21akyol-master768ISTANBUL — THE recent massacres in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., demonstrated, once again, the so-called Islamic State’s ability to win over disaffected Muslims. Using a mixture of textual literalism and self-righteous certainty, the extremist group is able to persuade young men and women from Pakistan to Belgium to pledge allegiance to it and commit violence in its name.

This is why the Islamic State’s religious ideology needs to be taken seriously. While it’s wrong to claim that the group’s thinking represents mainstream Islam, as Islamophobes so often do, it’s also wrong to pretend that the Islamic State has “nothing to do with Islam,” as many Islamophobia-wary Muslims like to say. Indeed, jihadist leaders are steeped in Islamic thought and teachings, even if they use their knowledge to perverse and brutal ends.

A good place to start understanding the Islamic State’s doctrine is by reading Dabiq, the digital English-language magazine that the group puts out every month. One of the most striking pieces I have seen in it was an 18-page article in March titled “Irja’: The Most Dangerous Bid’ah,” or heresy.

Unless you have some knowledge of medieval Islamic theology you probably have no idea what irja means. The word translates literally as “postponing.” It was a theological principle put forward by some Muslim scholars during the very first century of Islam. At the time, the Muslim world was going through a major civil war, as proto-Sunnis and proto-Shiites fought for power, and a third group called Khawarij (dissenters) were excommunicating and slaughtering both sides. In the face of this bloody chaos, the proponents of irja said that the burning question of who is a true Muslim should be “postponed” until the afterlife. Even a Muslim who abandoned all religious practice and committed many sins, they reasoned, could not be denounced as an “apostate.” Faith was a matter of the heart, something only God — not other human beings — could evaluate.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES