By Mark Ellis —
At least 45 Christians are dead after suicide bombers exploded their vests at two churches in Alexandria and the Nile Delta city of Tanta on Palm Sunday, leaving behind horrific scenes of death and destruction.
The first blast happened at St. George’s Church in Tanta, killing 27 and injuring many more. It was followed shortly thereafter by a suicide bomb detonated outside St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria where Pope Tawadros, the leader of the Coptic Church, led worship.
In Alexandria, the bomber was stopped by a police metal detector at the church entrance, preventing more losses inside the church. In Tanta, tragically, the metal detector was either not working or the suicide bomber managed to slip through without notice.
President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency across Egypt in response. He ordered troops to protect “vital infrastructure” and warned of a “long and painful” war against jihadists, who have killed hundreds of people in the country in the past four years, according to the BBC.
Funerals are being held under heavy security at the Monastery of St Mina in Alexandria for the victims in that city. Priests in long robes stood next to a line of coffins emblazoned with the word “martyr,” near mourners overcome with grief.
Many mourners expressed outrage at the state’s failure to protect Copts from attacks by ISIS, which has made many threats against them.
“Where should we go pray? They are attacking us in our churches. They don’t want us to pray but we will pray,” Samira Adly, whose neighbours died in the attack, told Reuters news agency.
The founder of the Christian media organization SAT-7, Dr. Terence Ascott, directed his ire at the radicals’ twisted philosophy: “And therein is the problem – in the sick and distorted ideologies that have possessed the minds of some, to the point where the act of killing innocent children and destroying the lives of as many others as possible can be seen as a service to God.”
“The truth is that, whether the tragedy be in Tanta, Alexandria, Stockholm, London, Berlin, Nice or Paris…there is nothing that anyone can do to protect themselves or others against the evil actions of anyone who is willing to give their life to indiscriminately take the lives of others,” Dr. Ascott said.
“In the end, winning the battle for people’s minds is the only way to stop such carnage. As a media organization serving in this very troubled region, may God give us wisdom in what to say; and give our viewers the ears to hear and respond to His Love for all people – yes, even those who, at this moment, may be rejoicing at the successful murder and maiming of yet more of our brothers and sisters in Egypt.”
The attacks raised concerns about security ahead of a visit to Cairo by Pope Francis, scheduled for April 28 and 29th.
“What happened caused disorder and tremendous suffering, but it cannot stop the pope’s mission of peace,” Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the Vatican’s deputy secretary of state, told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Egypt’s State of emergency will mean further restrictions on freedom of movement and gatherings and heightened monitoring of all forms of communication. It will allow President al-Sisi to confiscate or shut down media outlets, among other restrictions.
“The security forces already enjoy wide-ranging powers that they have used to crush dissent since Mr Sisi led the military’s overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president in 2013,” the BBC noted.
“More than 1,000 people, most of them supporters of Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, have been killed and tens of thousands imprisoned.”
ISIS claimed responsibility for both bombings and said they will continue to murder believers: “Let the crusaders and apostates know that they will pay a huge bill with their son’s blood,” read an online statement carried by the group’s semi-official Amaq news agency.
On a SAT-7 Arabic Facebook page, this message was posted: “Our hearts are crushed with pain because of the horrifying terrorist crimes at St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta and St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria. We lift our eyes to the living God asking for consolation to all the families of the martyrs and healing for all the injured.”
SAT-7 production crews visited both the Tanta and Alexandria churches April 9th and spoke with many devastated mourners. On April 10th, it will broadcast a special program about the bombings. It will also speak with representatives of Egypt’s Orthodox, Evangelical and Catholic Christian communities to express the unity of the Church as it “weeps with those who suffer.”
For more about SAT-7’s response, go here