Egypt’s Christian community are in mourning after 27 Christians died and over 60 more were injured in a bomb attack.
The blast took place on Sunday 11 December in a packed chapel adjoining the Coptic Orthodox cathedral of St Mark in Cairo. All but three of those who died are women and children.
“Traditionally women and children sit on the right side of the church, on the left side are the men,” an Open Doors partner told us. “As it was a public holiday, the church was full.”
He reports that “A woman carrying a heavy bag walked into the church, sat in the women’s side and put her bag on the floor, after few minutes she stood up and walked out, leaving the bag behind.”
Video footage shows the interior of the church littered with broken and scattered furniture, it’s floor spattered with blood and torn clothing.
“There were children. What have they done to deserve this?” a witness told the Associated Press news agency.
“This sent shock waves across the Christian community all over Egypt,” said our Open Doors partner. “Is this the beginning of another wave of violence against Christians in Egypt?”
Meanwhile, one of our Egyptian team wrote that ‘It’s very hard to express in words the depth of sorrow and pain that fills our hearts. Please join us in prayers during those sad days, especially during the funeral and the coming few days so those who have lost their dear ones may find comfort in the Lord and those who are still in the hospitals.’
President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has declared a three-day period of national mourning.
Egypt’s Christian minority has often been targeted by Islamist militants. In 2013 the Egyptian military removed President Mohammed Morsi, the elected leader who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of Mr Morsi’s supporters blame Christians for supporting his removal. A month after he was unseated, 82 churches were burned and hundreds of Christian homes and businesses were looted and burned in a two week period of violence.
But discrimination and violence against Egypt’s Christian minority goes back a long way. Blasphemy cases against Christians are frequent, building or even repairing a church is difficult, if not impossible, and Christians find themselves placed at the end of the queue when it comes to things like education and welfare. Muslim-background believers, as in many countries, bear the brunt of persecution, often from their families, who may punish them for abandoning the Islamic faith with beatings or expulsions from the home.
In the meantime, our Open Doors partner has urged us to pray.
“Please pray that the spirit of fear would not find a foothold in the Christian community,” he said, and also that Egypt’s Christians would harbour ‘no thoughts of revenge’, but instead “would receive the spirit of forgiveness and be able to express this openly in the name of Christ.”
Source: Open Doors; BBC; Reuters; AP
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