The plight of Coptic Christians living in the Middle East has been well-documented since radical Islamists have gained more prominence in the region. However, these struggles aren’t confined to war zones – even relatively peaceful locations like Cairo can present difficult challenges for followers of this faith.
The most recent was a report on how these tenacious and brave people celebrated their traditional orthodox Christmas despite increased threats from ISIS.
The most recent act of violence towards Coptic Christians took place in Cairo on Friday, December 26th, 2017. As a result of the attack, nine people were killed. The assault occurred at the Mar Mina Church located in southern Cairo within the Helwan neighborhood. Spokesman Boules Haliem says though it was a deadly attack, it could’ve been worse. He said, “The attacker was unable to get in.”
The worshipers who were attacked were victimized as they left the church. Reports say the church was full because many were attending Mass at the time. This means the death toll of nine and eight wounded, two of which were wounded critically could’ve been worse. The Islamic State extremist group quickly claimed responsibility for the attack via a messaging app.
ISIS declared its intention to increase their attacks on Egyptian Christians last year. The group is seeking a foothold in Egypt after it was defeated in both Iraq and Syria. Since the group’s declaration of violence, there have been more than 100 Egyptian Copts killed in bus attacks and church bombings.
Despite the threat being obvious, this didn’t stop brave followers from continuing to observe their faith.
The Coptic Orthodox Christians of Egypt held their Christmas Eve mass outside of Cairo at Christ’s Nativity Cathedral and other places of worship on January 7th, just as they would any other year.
Of course, there were security measures in place. Christians places of worship in Egypt now feature metal detectors at the door. In addition, all the congregants must endure a full body search before entering the premises. Heavily armed soldiers and police patrolled outside the church doors and in some cases, entire streets were shut down. This was all, of course, meant to prevent additional violent acts by ISIS and create a safe environment in which to worship.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a Muslim, stood in solidarity with his country’s Coptic minority.
“I always say this and repeat it: Destruction, ruin, and killing will never be able to defeat goodness, construction, love, and peace,” he said. “It’s impossible. Pay attention, you are our family. You are part of us We are one and no one will drive a wedge between us.”
Coptic Christians get the name of their faith from an ancient dialect spoken in Egypt. Some experts believe the language itself was developed to help Christianity spread. Others think it was developed by the Jewish people.
The Coptic language fell silent for the most part in Egypt around 1000 to 1500 A.D. However, the language is still read in the Coptic church today by the clergy. Coptic Christians are theologically similar to Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism.
~ 1776 Christian