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Condolences sent to Coptic Church after Egyptian blaze kills 41 worshippers

15 August 2022


The aftermath of the fire at the Abu Sifin Coptic church in Giza

The aftermath of the fire at the Abu Sifin Coptic church in Giza

CHURCH leaders around the world have expressed horror and sorrow for the victims of an electrical fire which swept through an Egyptian Coptic Christian church during the Sunday morning eucharist.

At least 41 people were killed as people attempted to flee the blaze at the Abu Sifin church in Giza. Many were children who were attending a nursery on the upper floor of the building. Most victims suffered from smoke inhalation.

The fire started shortly before 9 a.m., blocking an exit of the four-floor church, where up to 1000 people were gathered. The sight of plumes of smoke reportedly caused a rush of panic on the stairs.

The Archbishop of the Anglican Province of Alexandria, Dr Sami Fawzi, said in a statement on Monday: “I express my condolences to the Highness of Pope Tawadros II, Pope Alexandria, and to the families of the victims, and pray that God gives them patience, calmness, and to give [those injured] a quick recovery.”

The exact cause of the fire has yet to be confirmed, but electrical fires are common in the country. Restrictions on obtaining a licence to build churches has resulted in churches being converted from apartment buildings which lack adequate fire-safety measures.

The Coptic Orthodox Archbishop Angaelos of London wrote on Twitter on Monday: “At best, today’s tragic Egypt church fire is a direct result of a painful time when Christian communities could not build purpose-designed churches, and would have to covertly use other buildings, not fit for purpose and lacking the necessary health and safety features and escapes.”

He described the news as “devastating” and prayed for the community affected. He had been “deeply moved by the outpouring of sentiments from so many around the world” as the news broke.

The Archbishop of Canterbury posted: “I am horrified and profoundly saddened by the fire today at the Coptic Abu Sifin Church in Giza, Egypt. I pray for parents who weep for children, children who have lost parents, for all affected by this terrible tragedy, and for the Coptic Church as it seeks to respond.”

The President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, offered his “sincere condolences to the families of the innocent victims that have passed on to be with their Lord in one of his houses of worship”. He has reportedly instructed the army to rebuild the church. A team from the Public Prosecution Office has begun an investigation, focusing on reports of an electrical fault in the air conditioning.

A funeral for the people killed was held later that day at a cemetery in the city, a working-class district west of the River Nile in greater Cairo.

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