Pope still plans Egypt visit despite bombings

Cornelia Mascio
Aprile 11, 2017

The Copts, whose presence in Egypt dates to the Roman era, have long complained of religious persecution and accused the state of not doing enough to protect them.Coming on Palm Sunday, when Christians mark the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, the bombings appeared created to spread fear among Copts, who make up 10 percent of Egypt's population.They also raised security fears ahead of a visit to Cairo by Roman Catholic Pope Francis planned for April 28-29.Coptic Pope Tawadros, who was leading the mass in Alexandria's Saint Mark's Cathedral when the bomb exploded, was not harmed, the Interior Ministry said. Gen. Hussam Ad-Din Khalifa, director of security in Gharbiya Province where Tanta is located, when he tried inspecting the damage at St. George church.

At least 17 people were killed at St Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria, the historic seat of Christendom in Egypt.

St. George is one of three Coptic Christian congregations in the Seattle region.

"We see dozens of reports of enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings occurring in Egypt, even without the emergency law", said Ahmed Abdallah, head of the board of trustees of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, which monitors forced disappearances in Egypt. "How does it help me feel protected going into church?" ISIS often uses Amaq news agency to claim attacks after they have happened.

At the end of his Palm Sunday Mass, the leader of the world's Roman Catholic Church said, " I pray for the dead and the victims.

The measure took effect at 1pm, with Egyptian security forces blocking off streets and placing cordons around Egyptian churches.

So-called Islamic State (IS) said it was behind the blasts in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday.

"The United States will continue to support Egypt's security and stability in its efforts to defeat terrorism", the State Department's official announcement about the attacks read, according to Fox News. "In 2013, Christians were targeted in a spate of attacks after Morsi was ousted in a military coup".

In a statement, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi condemned the attacks, saying the "outrageous" action "targets both the Copts and Muslims of the homeland".

Citizens in Tanta told CNN they believe security is poor and demanded it be changed.

Copts have faced persecution and discrimination that has spiked since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak's regime in 2011.

Along with others, the Pope expressed his grief after the church attack.

"We are seeing simultaneous attacks, based on strong information, targeting big churches across the country".

Francis plans to visit Egypt in the near future visit in what he called a solidarity visit with the Coptic Christian community. More recently, hundreds of Christians fled Egypt's volatile Sinai Peninsula after militants aligned with the Islamic State affiliate there killed several who were attacked in their homes or in drive-by shootings.

The attacks highlighted the difficulties facing el-Sissi's government in protecting Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population.

Those attacks followed one of the deadliest on Egypt's Christian minority, when a suicide bomber hit its largest Coptic cathedral, killing at least 25 people in December a year ago. The three church attacks in December and now April also suggest an expanded presence of jihadist cells west of the Suez Canal separating the Sinai proper from the rest of Egypt.

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