Middle East and North Africa

Egypt’s Copts will not be deterred from church-going in spite of threats

The Egyptian government is increasing security around churches as Easter approaches, after the twin bomb attack that killed nearly 50 in Alexandria and Tanta on Palm Sunday. Senior police offers now patrol St. Mark’s Cathedral, in Cairo where the Coptic Pope, Tawadross worships. Cars are searched and people are scanned around the parameters.

Emad Thomas, Coptic engineer said, on Wednesday, “No security measure can stop a suicide bomber with jihadist beliefs from blowing up a church.” He added, “Egypt’s Copts put their trust in God and not in security measures.”

Christians, he declared,  will not be deterred from going to church by Islamic terror groups.

A military tank is stationed at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Cairo’s central downtown area, and in the Assiut, south of Cairo, security barriers seal off some parameters around big churches. A military source told AP that security officers “have started patrolling the city and will be stationed across town before Sunday.”

Peter Naggar, a Coptic lawyer, said, “The government should have taken these measures before the Coptic celebrations season and not after disaster struck.”

The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese has announced that, in solidarity with the victims of the twin terror attacks last Sunday, their Easter celebrations will be limited to the liturgical prayers. “There will be no decorations in churches and the rooms normally reserved for the reception of worshipers wishing to exchange season’s greetings will remain closed,” an official at the Coptic patriarchate said.

In the neighboring city of Minya, home to the highest Coptic Christian population in the country, the Coptic Orthodox Diocese said that celebrations will only be limited to the liturgical prayers “without any festive manifestations,” in mourning for Sunday’s victims.

Egypt’s Catholic and Anglican churches have also cancelled Easter celebrations on Saturday night. Father Andrea Zaki, the head of the Anglican community in Egypt, said Easter celebrations will be cancelled and masses will be limited to prayer services in mourning of the victims of the attacks.

Meanwhile the Egyptian Ministry of Interior, on Wednesday, named Mahmoud Hassan Mubarak Abdallah, a 30-year-old worker at a petroleum company, a resident of Suez province as the Alexandria church bomber. The statement said he was identified by comparing the DNA of remains found at the site of the bombing with the DNA of “runaway suspects”. The ministry is LE100,000 ($5,510) for leads on the the arrest of others identified as fugitive members of the same cell.