Christians in Egypt celebrated Easter amid tight security and in a sombre mood. While worshippers gathered in both Alexandria and Tanta, in the churches that were attacked last Sunday, authorities made a number of arrests in connection with other possible planned attacks. However, violence continued in Kom El-Loufy, in the Minya Governorate, where three homes belonging to Coptic Christians were burned and eight people were injured.
Locals told World Watch Monitor that the attack in their village, which is around 230km south of Cairo, took place on Holy Thursday (13 April), shortly after a prayer meeting at one of the Christians’ homes. They said a group of Muslim villagers attacked the Christians and burnt three of their homes and threw bricks and stones at several others.
While the Coptic villagers continue to receive threats and are trapped in their homes for fear of further attacks, no arrests have been made.
Although there are about 1,500 Copts living in Kom El-Loufy, there is no church. The Copts do, however, have permission from the local authorities to gather for prayer. Following the attack on Thursday, no meetings were held on Good Friday for fear of further violence.
It is not the first time attacks have taken place in in the village. In June last year, World Watch Monitor reported how angry Muslims set fire to four Coptic homes because they suspected a house would be turned into a church.
In the wake of the Palm Sunday bombings in two churches in Cairo and Alexandria a week ago, in which 45 people lost their lives, Egypt’s authorities have arrested 13 suspected terrorists. The website Middle East Eye quoted the Interior Ministry as saying that the individuals belonged to cells preparing attacks against “government and Christian institutions”, as well as police, in four northern provinces, including Alexandria. “Security forces also discovered two farms in Alexandria and the neighbouring province of Beheira that were used to make explosives and store weapons,” the ministry added.
Despite fear of further attacks, Egypt’s Copts gathered in their churches all over Egypt to celebrate Easter.
In St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, one of the two churches bombed the previous Sunday, deacons carried pictures of the seven people killed in the attack.
In Tanta hundreds more Copts gathered to mourn those killed in a suicide bombing there. Amid heavy security, worshippers filed past a flower-strewn memorial at the Mar Girgis (St. George) church, with incense burning, and offered prayers.
Mourad Hanna, who lives in Tanta, told World Watch Monitor: “I feel very sad in my heart and feel the pain in the hearts of the families of the martyrs. I thank God for giving them peace and comfort through the hope of the Resurrection.”
Fathy Anwar, a Christian from Cairo, said: “We don’t feel any joy this Easter, all of us are very sad about what happened to our brothers and sisters in Tanta and Alexandria. We pray for the families of all who those martyred in these two church bombings, that God comforts all of them.”
As many of the injured in the attack in Tanta are still being treated in the Al-Jalaa military hospital in Maadi, Cairo, the hospital facilitated an Easter Mass for them and their families. Some of the injured deacons participated in the choir, sitting in wheelchairs.
On Easter Sunday, Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo was heavily secured by police and soldiers, while worshippers filed through three metal detectors as they entered the church. In his Easter message, the Coptic Pope Tawadros II told the Copts, who make up about 10% of Egypt’s population, they must continue to pray and to love: “I congratulate you on this Easter, despite the bitterness that we felt and still feel,” he said. “The Day of Jesus’ Resurrection comes after Good Friday … the day of the crucifixion … a day of injustice and pain, but soon the Resurrection came, with joy.”