Security in churches tightened as ‘resilient’ Copts hold Easter services

21 April 2017

REUTERS

Easter message: an armed policeman, on Holy Monday, outside St George’s, Tanta, which was bombed on Palm Sunday

Easter message: an armed policeman, on Holy Monday, outside St George’s, Tanta, which was bombed on Palm Sunday

EASTER services went ahead amid tighter security in churches across Egypt after the twin suicide bombings that killed at least 45 Christians on Palm Sunday (News, 13 April).

The Coptic Church had an­­nounced that it would scale back the festivities, as a period of mourning for victims was being observed.

Bombers struck St Mark’s Ca­­thedral, in Alexandria, and Mar Girgis, also known as St George’s, in Tanta, north of Cairo, during ser­vices. More than 100 people were injured in the attacks. The Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, had been presid­ing at the cathedral at the time of the blast, but was not injured. Islamic State has claimed re­sponsib­ility for the bombings.

A three-month state of emer­gency has been declared by the gov­­ernment in response.

Coptic Christians flocked to Easter services amid tightened se­­curity last weekend. Pope Tawadros presided over the Good Friday ser­vice at St Mark’s Cathedral, in cen­tral Cairo, while police and security officers surrounded the building.

The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, Bishop Angaelos, said: “After the pain of Palm Sunday, people were still resi­lient and determined that it was not going to change anything: liturgical celebrations continued, but the fest­ivities afterwards were not held. Churches were absolutely full. There is great resilience and strength among people, though we think of the families who are griev­ing . . . and pray for them.”

Copts make up about ten per cent of Egypt’s population of 92 million. Violence against the community has increased in the past few years, espe­cially since the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi (News, 5 July 2013). Some Morsi supporters blamed Christians for supporting the overthrow.

 

Monastery attack IS has claimed responsibility for a second violent attack on Christians after gunmen opened fire on a checkpoint on Wednesday outside the ancient Christian monastery of St Catherine in the Sinai peninsula.

One policeman was killed and four others injured, but the attackers were forced to flee after the attack, which took place about half a mile from the monastery's entrance. 

The monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church and was built in the 6th century. 

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