Two Church Attacks & The Increasing Persecution Of Egyptian Christians

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Image: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
By Emma Reilly | 10 April 2017

A state of emergency has been declared in Egypt following two church bombings on Sunday 9 April, which killed at least 44 people and injured over 100 people.

  • Two churches were attacked north of Cairo during Palm Sunday church Services.
  • At least 44 people killed and over 100 injured. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility.
  • Attacks on Egyptian Christians have increased. Open Doors is working through local partners to strengthen the church in Egypt. Click here to read our interview with our local partner Arif*.

What Happened?

Two Coptic churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, both north of Cairo, were holding Palm Sunday church services when the blasts went off. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

The first attack happened at approximately 9.30am at St George’s Church in Tanta. A suicide bomber passed security and entered the church, detonating his explosives at the front of the church, near the altar. At least 27 people were killed and 78 others injured.

Just a few hours later, the second blast went off at St Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria. A suicide bomber tried to enter the church but was held back by police. He then blew himself up, killing 17 people and injuring 48.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a three-month state of emergency in Egypt and called for national unity.

Blog Multiple ImagesImages: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Islamic State Target Egyptian Christians

This has been called the single deadliest day of violence against Egyptian Christians in decades. It comes as attacks against Christians have increased in recent months. Earlier this year, Islamic State announced they would be targeting Egyptian Christians.

In December 2016, a deadly attack at Cairo’s biggest Coptic church killed 29 people. That attack was also claimed by the Islamic State.

We reported in March this year that Egypt’s Christians were under attack. In North Sinai, a woman saw her husband and son killed in front of her as two masked men forced their way into her house. After they killed the men, they confirmed their names, crossing them off a list. Entire families are being forced to flee the North Sinai region for fear of persecution.

These Are Some Of The Biggest Attacks On Egyptian Christians In Recent Years

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9 April 2017: Palm Sunday Church Attacks
Two churches were attacked in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, north of Cairo. At least 44 people were killed, and over 100 injured. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for both attacks.

21 February 2017: Christians On Hit List
A father and son were killed by two masked men who forced their way into the family home in Arish. One of the masked men crossed their names off an Islamic State hit list before setting the house on fire. At least 7 Christians were killed in Irish in February/March 2017. Earlier in 2017, the Islamic State released a video vowing to eliminate Egypt of all Christians.

11 December 2016: Largest Coptic Church In Cairo Attacked
A bomb exploded in the largest coptic church in Cairo. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State and killed at least 29 people (mainly women and children) and left 47 wounded. 

15 February 2015: 21 Egyptian Christians Killed
21 Egyptian Christians who were kidnapped in December 2014 and January 2015 were beheaded on a beach in Sirte, Libya by the Islamic State. A graphic video was released of their murder. 

2011-2014: Christian Girls Abducted
Around 550 Christian girls were abducted by Muslim men between 2011 and 2014. Many are forced into arranged marriages, made to convert to Islam and never heard from again.

20 October 2013: Gunmen Open Fire At Wedding
Gunmen on motorbikes opened fire outside a church as people left a wedding in Cairo. Four people were killed, including two girls aged eight and 12

1 January 2011: New Years Church Attack
A midnight New Years church service was the target of a suicide bomber in Alexandria. 23 people were killed and almost 100 injured. Several thousand Christians were at the church service.

"Lord have mercy on Egypt." - Open Doors Contact

Our Open Doors contact in Egypt said, "One of the most joyful days for Christians in Egypt is Palm Sunday… The joyful day turned into a painful tragedy."

He heard about the first attack as he and his family were leaving to go to their church. Shortly after his service finished he heard about the second attack, "...doubling our pain and deepening our shock." This is what he told us in response:

"My soul is bitter and my spirit is crying in pain and agony.
Lord have mercy on Egypt.
Lord unveil the dark spirit of deception and show up your light.
Lord help your children to stay people of guts, courage and strong convictions.
And may your name be gloried even in the middle of death, pain and devastation."

How Can I Help?

Please pray for Egyptian Christians to know the love and peace of God in this time of mourning.

Pray for church services around the world during Easter. Last year a bomb blast targeting Christians in Pakistan killed at least 70 people and injured over 300. It happened in a park in Lahore that was popular for Christians to visit after Easter Sunday services. 

Open Doors works in Egypt through local partners. Our work includes caring for widows and family ministry, along with literacy and Bible training for persecuted Christians. We also have teams that minister to suffering believers in response to attacks like these. You can support Open Doors work in Egypt here. 

Images: Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters