Egypt (MNN) — An ISIS splinter group has now claimed Sunday’s bombing of a Coptic Church in Cairo, Egypt.
The facts surrounding the investigation differ, depending on whether the information is coming from the militant group or if it’s coming from the government, but the impact of the attack has left the Christian community shaken to its core.
Copts are the biggest group within Egypt’s Christian minority, which makes up about five percent of the total population, according to the numbers from Pew Research. The last notable attack on a Christian Church was on January 1, 2011 in Alexandria, which was considered the deadliest act of violence against Egypt’s Coptic Christians in a decade.
SAT-7 founder and CEO, Dr. Terry Ascott says, “I think it’s become a pattern, that at a time of celebration, this is a sort of spoiler. It’s also a time when attackers know there are large numbers of people assembled together in a confined space. There were tactical and psychological reasons for such an attack being carried out at the beginning of Advent season.”
SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, has an audience of 5.5 million in Egypt. A press release noted that within an hour of the tragedy, a SAT-7 camera crew had arrived at the scene to give a voice to shocked worshippers and relatives.
“Really, to stand with the Christians, to express sympathy, and to just show that we’re there and we’re encouraging other brothers and sisters across the Arab world to pray for the Church at this time,” he explained. “The production team also produced special programs to offer support and comfort to the Christians in their grief.”
Ascott mentioned that the Cairo team produced a special edition of SAT-7’s Bridges current affairs show, featuring interviewed church leaders and other commentators on the events and how Egypt can address the causes of sectarianism and terrorism.
SAT-7 broadcast live the packed funeral service on Monday as it was conducted by the Coptic Orthodox Pope, Tawadros ll. The Coptic Church leader said, “We are in so much pain over the evil that surrendered all the humanity and feelings that God entrusted in man.” He also stressed that it is not only Christians but the whole of Egyptian society that is threatened by terrorism.
Even though the State promised protection, the nature of this attack created uncertainty, especially when it comes down to justice. Ascott says,“It was very personal. At least one of our staff lost an auntie and a niece in the killing. I think it was something that resonated with everybody — all of the Christian community across Egypt.”
Since 2014, when Egypt’s new constitution was passed, it seems extremists who attacked Christian communities were allowed to act with impunity. As a religious minority, Christians often feel like they’re treated as second-class citizens.
The question they want answered is “why?” It’s an impossible question to answer satisfactorily when so much hatred is involved.
In this time of Advent, the answer comes in waiting well. Waiting for justice. Waiting for healing. The hardest thing about waiting is not knowing when it’s going to end, if it is going to end. Waiting brings questions without easy answers.
Ascott says, “The power of prayer is always underestimated in these kinds of situations. We can stand with the Church as it seeks to provide aid and support to the victims of this tragedy.” This is a time when the Church gets to show its loving and forgiving side, he explains, adding, “It does have a profound impact on society, in general, when Christians pray for their enemies, and forgive their enemies in public, as has happened in many instances in the past. We do pray that this will also add to the weight of witness.”
Ask God to comfort these believers today, not only in their loss, but also in the fear that must surely be present. Pray for peace to be restored in this land and for a great turning to the Gospel of Christ. Pray God will strengthen and embolden Christians in this time and give them new opportunities to share the Gospel.