Egypt: of Christmas, Christians and counterterrorism

By January 7, 2019

Egypt (SAT7/MNN) — Days after an explosion killed three tourists and their Egyptian guide, the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El Sisi ordered the creation of a committee to tackle “sectarian incidents”.

Mary Joseph, Communications Officer for SAT-7 Egypt*, described the incident in this statement:

 The terrorist attack on a tourist bus in Egypt on Friday 28th December 2018 comes at a crucial time for Egypt. Tourism is beginning to regain its strength. According to the BBC website, 8.3 million tourists visited Egypt in 2017. This terrorist attack aims to impact tourism which is vital for Egypt’s economy, and affect its reputation worldwide. The attack, which came before the New Year celebrations and Eastern Christmas, also aims to affect celebrations of Egyptians. Soon after the attack, many people responded on social media with a campaign confirming that Egypt is safe through the hashtag: #ThisIsEgypt. The targeted tourist bus was reported to have up to 14 Vietnamese tourists on board. The blast killed three tourists and the Egyptian tour guide.

Although no one claimed the attack on the bus, ISIS claimed most of the recent attacks on the Christian minority (roughly 10-percent of the population) over the past two years.   To combat the increase in terrorism, President El Sisi chose the national security and counterterrorism advisor,   Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, to head the new committee.  It officially begins work today, January 7, in light of Egypt’s Coptic Christmas celebrations.

Its purpose: create a general strategy to “prevent and confront sectarian incidents”.   Members will include the country’s top anti-corruption body, security and intelligence agencies.

Christmas mass goes forward

Meanwhile, Wayne Pederson, the Executive Liaison with Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC), was in Egypt over the weekend to meet with several Christian delegations and celebrate new beginnings.

Even as security tightened, the Coptic Orthodox Church’s official spokesperson says that Egypt’s new Nativity of the Christ Church, the largest in the Middle East, officially opened on January 6, and held Coptic Christmas mass.  Pederson says President El-Sisi and Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II attended.

He also went on to note that the Church said (in a video posted online) that the public can attend the mass after registering with the Church.   The video also shows parts of President El-Sisi’s speech during Christmas Mass at the Cathedral of St Mark in Abbasiya district in January 2018, where he promised that, upon its completion in 2019, the new cathedral would host the next Christmas mass.

(Photo courtesy of SAT 7-Egypt)

President El-Sisi commissioned the building of the Cathedral in January 2017 following twin terrorist attacks that killed at least 27 Coptic Egyptians at St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Cairo on Palm Sunday. During Christmas mass in 2018, the Egyptian president called the church-to-be “a message of peace love to the world.”

A message of peace

The message the new committee sends to extremists is also a step in the right direction, say church leaders, following a wave of violence that targeted Christians.  In the midst of fear, SAT-7 Egypt has been broadcasting a message of biblical hope throughout the season to encourage their viewers.    In light of the events of the past few weeks, Mary Joseph simply says, “We ask for prayers for the safety of all Egyptians.”

*SAT-7 is a Christian satellite television network to the Middle East and North Africa.



Map courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons

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