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 

Egyptian priest praises Muslim support of threatened Christians

EGYPT CHRISTIANS SINAIOXFORD, England – A spokesman for Egypt’s Catholic Church praised local Muslims for helping embattled Christians after a series of Islamic State attacks in Sinai.

Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church, said Christians must differentiate between ordinary Muslims and extremists.

“Ordinary Muslims are kind and try to help however they can –  they’re often first on the scene, rescuing the injured and taking them to hospitals,” he told Catholic News Service March 3, as Christians continued to flee Egypt’s North Sinai region.

Greiche said the attacks had affected only Coptic Orthodox Christians, but added that Catholic churches and schools in Ismailia had offered shelter to Orthodox families with help from Caritas.

Greiche said Islamic State militants were now “strongly entrenched” in North Sinai, having been allowed by the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood organizations to use tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

He added that civilians were better off not staying in the surrounding military zone, which was now “under attack all the time,” but said he believed the Egyptian authorities were committed to protecting Christians against the Islamist insurgency.

“You can never do enough against jihadist and terrorist attacks, which come, like any criminal acts, at a time no one can foresee,” the priest said. “But while no country can be fully secure, I think there’s will on government side to act decisively against these constant attempts to destabilize Egypt.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUX 

Muslim and Christian leaders in Cairo to discuss ways to promote social harmony

egyptCAIRO // Muslim scholars and Christian leaders from 50 countries, including the UAE, will issue a declaration on Muslim-Christian coexistence after a two-day conference.

As they hold discussions on Tuesday and Wednesday, religious and political experts will explore ways to promote social harmony for all faiths living within Arab and Muslim nations.

In the Egyptian capital where terrorist attacks on churches have taken place, those taking part will discuss recent experiences and what needs to be done to embrace diversity and integration.

The conference is organised by the UAE’s Muslim Council of Elders and Al Azhar, the global seat of Sunni Muslim learning, based in Cairo.

Muslim and Christian religious figures need to lead by example and spend more time harmonising so members of society will follow their footsteps, said Anba Ermia, General Bishop and president of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Centre.

Bishop Ermia was speaking ahead of the conference during a visit to Saint Peter’s church, where a bombing in December killed 29 people.

 “It is in the nature of Arabs to be influenced by their religious leaders, so when they are seen together some will reconsider their rejection of the other,” he said.

When such discussions are held, the door remains open for feedback and further discussion, Bishop Ermia said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL (UAE)

I Am a Member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Not a Terrorist

23haddad-master768TORA, Egypt — I write this from the darkness of solitary confinement in Egypt’s most notorious prison, where I have been held for more than three years. I am forced to write these words because an inquiry is underway in the United States regarding charges that the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization to which I have devoted years of my life, is a terrorist group.

We are not terrorists. The Muslim Brotherhood’s philosophy is inspired by an understanding of Islam that emphasizes the values of social justice, equality and the rule of law. Since its inception in 1928, the Brotherhood has lived in two modes: surviving in hostile political environments or uplifting society’s most marginalized. As such, we have been written about, spoken of, but rarely heard from. It is in that spirit that I hope these words find light.

We are a morally conservative, socially aware grass-roots movement that has dedicated its resources to public service for the past nine decades. Our idea is very simple: We believe that faith must translate into action. That the test of faith is the good you want to do in the lives of others, and that people working together is the only way to develop a nation, meet the aspirations of its youth and engage the world constructively. We believe that our faith is inherently pluralistic and comprehensive and that no one has a divine mandate or the right to impose a single vision on society.

Since our inception, we have been engaged politically in the institutions of our country as well as socially to address the direct needs of people. Despite being the most persecuted group under former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule in Egypt, our involvement in the Parliament, either in coalitions with other political groups or as independents, is a testament to our commitment to legal change and reform. We spoke truth to power in an environment full of rubber-stamp parties. We worked with independent pro-democracy organizations against plans to hand the presidency to Mr. Mubarak’s son. We also worked closely with an array of professional syndicates and labor unions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES