On 9th April, worshippers in Egypt were targeted during Palm Sunday celebrations
While worshippers celebrated Palm Sunday, an especially holy day for the community, 2 Coptic churches were bombed. The 1st blast was at the Mar Girgis church in the city of Tanta, north of Cairo and hours later, a suicide bomber struck the St. Mark’s Coptic orthodox cathedral in Alexandria. The terror attacks have killed over 45 people and injured over 100.
The attacks came just a few weeks before Pope Francis’ scheduled visit to the country
Egypt’s Christians identify as ‘Coptic Christians’ and comprise of 10% of Egypt’s 85 million population. They are the largest minority community in the Middle East. These blast come ahead of Pope Francis’ scheduled visit to Egypt on 28th and 29th April, intended to show support for Egypt’s Christian minority.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for these attacks
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the 2 Coptic church bombings but this doesn’t seem like an isolated attack. Coptic Christians have increasingly been the targets of violence for the last few years and have received numerous threats from the Islamic State.
Violence against Coptic Christians greatly increased after Egypt’s 2011 uprising
As a minority community, Copts (short for Coptic Christians) have always faced discrimination in Egyptian society. However, things have gotten especially bad after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011. For the next 2 years, they became targets of unclaimed bombings, violent attacks by Muslims and when they tried to protest against these incidents, they suffered at the hands of the army. Then in 2013, Mubarak’s elected Islamist successor Mohamed Morsi was also removed from office. Many Muslims blamed the Copts for supporting the military ouster of Morsi. This led to over 200 Copt-owned properties and 43 churches being attacked. In December 2016, a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State killed 29 worshippers during a Sunday mass in Cairo, followed by a video threatening the community with more attacks.
The Egyptian authorities, while condemning this violence, did little to prevent it from happening again.
But now that the International community has taken note, things might change for the Copts
U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the Egyptians and said that he hoped the Egyptian authorities will handle the situation properly. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres also expressed the hope that the perpetrators will be swiftly brought to justice. This may put pressure on the al-Sisi- led government to take stricter action.
And so, the Egyptian President has declared a 3-month state of Emergency in the country
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has declared a 3-month state of emergency in Egypt and has ordered military special forces to protect vital infrastructure after two powerful church bombings by the Islamic State. He also warned that the war against the jihadists “will be long and painful” and that jihadists will not be allowed to sow divisions in Egypt.