Coptic Christians suffer two deadly attacks at start of Holy Week

Rev Ian Alexander, Secretary to the Church of Scotland's World Mission Council, has sent messages of condolence to Protestant Churches in Egypt and to Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, in the wake of two deadly attacks on churches.

Suicide bombers launched the attacks on Coptic Christians in Alexandria and Tanta, Egypt, on Palm Sunday, killing at least 47 people and injuring more than 100. The terror group Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Rev Ian Alexander with Pope Tawadros II
Rev Ian Alexander with Pope Tawadros II during a world Mission visit to Egypt in 2016.

Offering our prayers

The letter of condolence to the Protestant churches read:

"We are thinking of you and our friends in Egypt in the aftermath of the terrible attacks on the Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria and the church in Tanta.

"We stand with you in Christian solidarity for the rights of all people to worship freely and safely and offer your our heartfelt prayers for the safety and wellbeing of the whole Christian community in Egypt.

"Blessings and peace"

Rev Dr Andrea Zaki Stephanous, President of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, responded:

"I would like to thank you for your support & prayers. We are going through a real tough time.

"Yesterday's attacks were heartbreaking. Palm celebrations turned to mourning.

"Keep us in your prayers, our eyes are lifted upon our Lord & we are praying for our country & for all afflicted families.

"May His peace prevail amidst of this turbulent time."

Letter to Pope Tawadros

The letter to His Holiness Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt read:

"Your Holiness,

"We greet you in the name of Christ. We well remember our visit to you just over a year ago, and your warm welcome to the Church of Scotland delegation.

"You are in the forefront of our thoughts and prayers in these dark days when, once again, terrible tragedy has struck your people whilst worshipping and praying in your Cathedral in Alexandria and church in Tanta. You have a long tradition of being faithful in witness and worship, having first welcomed Jesus as an infant.‚Äč

"We stand with you in Christian solidarity for the rights of all people to worship freely and safely and for all the people of Egypt badly affected by terrorism and indiscriminate violence - and offer your our heartfelt prayers for the safety and wellbeing of the whole Christian community in Egypt.

"May God bless and protect you.

"Blessings and peace"

Rev Colin Johnston was in Alexandria

Rev Colin Johnston, who is in Cairo working with students at the the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo, was visiting Alexandria and had been in the cathedral in the hours before the blast. He said:

"Do please keep the Church and indeed the nation of Egypt in your prayers. As you are maybe aware there have been dreadful and deadly bomb blasts this morning in Tanta, a city in the Delta, and then at the cathedral in Alexandria.

"I was actually in Alexandria overnight and had visited the cathedral yesterday, watching people in the courtyard making wonderfully intricate palm crosses. Then this morning I had joined the worship there: it was absolutely packed, standing room only.

"I left after about an hour to go to the Presbyterian church nearby, but after the service there I came out to discover mayhem. The streets were crowded with distraught people, many in tears. There was broken glass, and ambulances coming from all directions.

"I stopped at a coffee shop which I had visited yesterday, but the man behind the counter was unable to speak, the tears running down his face. I am now back in Cairo, but am wondering about the people I spoke with and took photos of, as they made the crosses yesterday.

"Also the friendly policeman who examined my passport both yesterday and today. Was he the one who died trying to restrain the bomber? Remember all the people of Alexandria and Tanta."

Bishop Angaelos' statement

Bishop Angaelos General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom issued the following statement:

9 April 2017

Today, Egypt’s Christians experienced yet another targeted attack, with a bombing of the Church of Saint George in Tanta during what was meant to be a joyous day of families celebrating Palm Sunday.

A few hours later there was a second bombing in Alexandria, killing innocent men, women and children as they left a Palm Sunday Liturgy that was officiated by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark.

While it is still too early to determine responsibility, what is undeniable is the senseless and heartless brutality that can lead a person or people to indiscriminately take innocent lives, especially at the most vulnerable hour of prayer.

Today we suffer with our sisters and brothers who have experienced losses in London, in Stockholm, and as well as those who continue to suffer on a daily basis across the Middle East. We pray for them and their families as well as their suffering and struggling communities.

We pray for His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and all our Coptic clergy in Egypt who continue to serve their spiritual children faithfully and diligently at a time in which their leadership and pastoral care is needed by our whole community.

We also pray for our Coptic Orthodox sisters and brothers who continue to be resilient in the face of ongoing and escalating attacks, and who resist the urge to react vengefully or reciprocally.

We are also saddened by the news that members of the security services who attempted to foil the second bombing in Alexandria lost their lives in the line of duty. We pray comfort and resolve for their families and colleagues.

As we celebrate Palm Sunday today and Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, we now also mark the entry of those who have passed today into the heavenly Jerusalem.

As we continue into the Holy Week of our Saviour, we share in the pain and heartbreak of their families and of all those affected by today’s incidents.

As we celebrate the Feast of the glorious Resurrection at the end of this week, we are reminded that our life here on earth is a journey often filled with pain, at the end of which is a promised glorious and eternal life void of such suffering and evil.

Read more about the situation for Christians in Egypt.

Read how the Synod of the Nile is helping refugees in Cairo

Learn about Rev Colin Johnston's mission to strengthen links between our churches. Or follow him on his blog 'Colin in Cairo'