Egypt (MNN) — Egypt is a nation in mourning. A bomb explosion at a Coptic Christian church in Cairo killed at least 25 people and wounded over 49 others this past Sunday.
So far, no groups have claimed responsibility for the bombing. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs, USA says this is unusual.
“Usually within hours somebody is stepping forward saying, ‘Yes, that was us. We’re making the infidels pay.’ But that hasn’t happened in this case. So we’ll wait to see even later today and into this week when or at what point somebody does step forward, or if nobody does.”
If nobody claims the bombing, it raises a lot of question marks. But there’s no debate that the attack itself bears the marks of terror.
“This would be the kind of attack the Islamic State would like to inspire. They would like to create animosity between Christians and Muslims in Egypt.”
Only about 10 percent of the Egyptian population is comprised of Coptic Christians. Conflict between portions of the Muslim population and their Christian neighbors is not a new feature in Egypt, especially since Muslims accused Christians of supporting former President Mohammed Morsi’s overthrow in 2013.
Nettleton says the bombing seemed to specifically target the most vulnerable in the congregation.
“The bomb…was planted apparently by a women [who] came in with a bag, sat down in the section of the church where the women and children sat, subsequently got up and left the church, then the bomb in the bag exploded…. So, overwhelmingly, the victims were women and children.
“The police were on-site within just a few minutes after the bombing. They are now going through the painstaking process of trying to put back together what exactly happened. Also, those who are injured are being treated in, as I understand it, military hospitals. So the government is providing for their treatment, and we pray that those who are injured will recover quickly and that God will work healing for them as well.”
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has condemned the attack and declared three-days of national mourning. And there have been messages of solidarity and compassion from other Egyptian and Muslim sources.
“It is heartening to see…the attack has been condemned by the Egyptian government. It’s also been condemned by the head of Cairo’s Al-Azaar Mosque, which is the seed of Sunni Islamic learning in Egypt. So, as you say, this is something where the government is not painting a picture that Christians have no place in Egypt.”
In the wake of this catastrophe, Coptic Christians in Egypt may be on edge as they head into Christmas celebrations over the next few weeks.
“It is a concern, particularly as we head into the Christmas season, extra worship services, extra times of gathering become extra targets. The Christians in Egypt, and really throughout the Muslim world, are very aware of that…during the Christmas season.”
Nettleton says, “I don’t think it will dampen their enthusiasm to meet together and to worship together, but they are rattled. This was a very large church. If you’re a little tiny church, you look at this and say, ‘Wait a minute, if they can be targeted, if somebody could go in there and plant a bomb, how could we protect ourselves?’”
As you head to your own Christmas church services, please remember to pray for our Egyptian brothers and sisters in Christ.
“I think the way we can stand with them is simply to pray that God will protect them, pray that they’ll be encouraged, and that they won’t shy away from worshipping and sharing the Gospel message during this Christmas season — even though they know, yes, there are threats; yes, there could be attacks, it could be dangerous. But our calling is not to only worship if it’s safe, our calling is to worship Jesus whenever.”