Egyptian Christians bury their martyrs as they await visit of Pope Francis

“Ordinary Muslims are kind and try to help however they can. They’re often the first on the scene, rescuing the injured and taking them to hospitals.”

Aftermath of bombing in St. George’s Coptic Church, Tanta, Egypt (Photo Courtesy of CoptsUnited)

The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox liturgy dictated that those murdered by the Palm Sunday suicide bombings should be buried that same day as there are no funerals during Holy Week.

The bombings are yet another outrage against a Christian minority. ISIL/ISIS claimed responsibility and threatened more attacks.

It is easy to colour our perception of Islam by such actions. Yet, last month we reported here on the SMA homepage that following attacks on Christians by the same terror group in Egypt’s North Sinai, Fr Rafic Greiche, speaking on behalf of Egypt’s Coptic Catholic Church, reminded us:

“Ordinary Muslims are kind and try to help however they can. They’re often the first on the scene, rescuing the injured and taking them to hospitals.”

You may read that article by clicking here here:

At total of 47 people died, including the two suicide bombers, Abu Ishaq al Masri (responsible for the bombing of St George’s Church, Tanta) and Abu al Baraa al Masri (responsible for the attack on the church of St. Mark, Alexandria). Both had been in Syria since 2013 and in recent months Ishaq al Masri had been active in the North Sinai region.

The Copt Orthodox Patriarch, in a message to the Bishop and faithful of Tanta said: “

“With our celebrations to recall Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem… we said goodbye to our beloved martyrs of the church of Mar Girgis in Tanta. They were called to heaven on the feast day to carry branches of palms and olive trees in front of Christ himself… They had prepared with fasting to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries and, praying and praising with all their heart, at the moment of martyrdom they passed through sorrow to the glorious joy of the Resurrection”.

In the wake of the bombings the Egyptian authorities announced a three month state of emergency which will be in place when Pope Francis travels to Cairo for a two-day visit on 28-29 April at the invitation of the Coptic pope, Tawadros II, and the grand Imam of the mosque of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Monamed el-Tayeb, as well as Catholic bishops and the Egyptian government.

Pope Francis’ visit, while raising major security concerns, also gives important focus on the targeting of minority Christian communities by ISIS in Egypt and the Middle East. In the aftermath of Sunday’s bombings strong criticism was directed towards Egypt’s security forces for failing to provide adequate protection.  

Just one-tenth of Egypt’s population are Christian, predominantly Coptic Orthodox. Less than 0.5% of Egypt’s population of 95 million are Catholic.

Speaking to the Guardian Newspaper, Bishop Anba Angaelos, head of the Coptic Orthodox church in the UK, welcomed the visit of Pope Francis as significant. “It’s a wonderful chance for Francis to practically show support for Christians in Egypt and in the Middle East…  Innocent men, women and children have had their lives brutally and tragically ended for no other reason except that they are Christian.”

The Guardian also quoted comments made by Jantzen Garnett, an expert on ISIS, to Agence France-Presse: “As the Islamic State is squeezed in Iraq and Syria it often conducts spectacular attacks elsewhere in an attempt to regain the narrative, boost morale and win recruits.”

The newspaper also reported concerns by Human Rights groups over on-going human rights violations by the Egyptian authorities who fear that the declared state of emergency will be used as a pretext for their continuance and escalation.

Since 1 April 2014 the Society of African Missions (SMA) has four missionaries working in Egypt. We ask you to pray for their wellbeing and safety and also for the wellbeing and safety of their congregations and that of all Christian people in this troubled region of the world. Let us pray that authentic love, the underpinning of all three of the great Abrahamic faiths, might guide the Jewish, Christian and Muslim peoples towards a future in which the light of our collective faiths, overcomes all darkness so that we might live in love and peace.

You may read the Agenzia Fides article here:

You may read the Guardian article here:

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