Thursday, October 31, 2013

Egyptian Christian Leader: 'Enemy' at Work Again in Wedding Party Attack

Egyptian Christian Leader: 'Enemy' at Work Again in Wedding Party Attack

Coptic Christians
Coptic Christians pray during a Coptic Orthodox Easter mass at the main cathedral in Cairo May 4. (Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)
Editor's Note: The following is the reaction of an Egyptian Christian leader to the attack and killing of several Christians attending a wedding at a Coptic church in Cairo on Sunday.
The "enemy" is shooting at us; Egyptian Christians are facing what seems to be painful and exhausting spiritual warfare. The tactics of the devil vary in nature and shape, but the outcome is the same; to break down the church and steal her testimony and peace granted by the loving Father. An awful incident took place Sunday that manifests this fact.
Last night there was a happy wedding of a young couple who had waited for the day to come when they could finally stand together, facing the altar of the Orthodox church of Virgin Mary, to exchange vows and rings for a lifelong happy marriage. Friends, neighbors and family attended in their best clothes and biggest smiles. Hugs and kisses were exchanged between family members who had not seen each other for a long time. The Church of Virgin Mary where the wedding service took place is located northwest of the capital in one of Cairo's problematic and overpopulated districts.
The wedding was over and the couple was announced as husband and wife. They walked down the aisle to the outside entrance of the church, where bouquets of flowers were set outside the church entrance for guests to greet the happily married couple before they went home.
As soon as the bride and groom were outside the church, two masked attackers drove fast by the church and opened fire on the crowd. At least three women were instantly killed and 17 other guests where severely injured and rushed to nearby hospitals; some of them are lying in critical conditions. Fortunately, the newlyweds survived the attack. They were left alone, standing among shattered flower bouquets, pieces of broken window glass and the hysterical wedding guests.
Egypt's large Christian population, estimated at 10 million, was shocked with the news; a happy wedding was converted into sad and devastating funerals in just a few seconds.

Egypt: gunmen open fire at Coptic Christian wedding in Cairo

Egypt: gunmen open fire at Coptic Christian wedding in Cairo
Four people, including an eight-year-old girl, killed in suspected sectarian attack on minority which makes up 10% of population
Egyptian security forces stand guard outside the Coptic Christian church attacked by gunmen
Egyptian security forces stand guard outside the Coptic Christian church attacked by gunmen on Sunday, killing at least four people including an eight-year-old girl. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Gunmen shot dead at least four Egyptians outside a Coptic Christian church on the edge of Cairo on Sunday evening as worshippers left the building after a wedding, state media reported. Two adults and two girls aged eight and 12 were killed, and at least 12 others injured, after the gunmen sprayed bullets seemingly at random.
The perpetrators, and their motives, are unknown as they left the area quickly on motorcycles, according to witnesses. But there are strong concerns that the shootings mark the latest sectarian attack on Egypt's Coptic Christian minority, which makes up around 10% of Egypt's population of 85 million.
Copts were scapegoated by some Islamist hardliners for the July overthrow of ex-president Mohamed Morsi – over 40 churches were attacked following the brutal army-led clearance of two pro-Morsi protest camps in August. State officials have done little to prevent the attacks, or bring their instigators to justice, although Egypt's prime minister called Sunday's attack a "callous and criminal act" and pledged to prosecute those responsible.
The Muslim Brotherhood – the Islamist group to which Morsi belongs – also strongly condemned the most recent attack in an English-language statement released overnight, while their allies have frequently blamed assaults on Christians on unaffiliated criminals, or even the state itself. But their opponents argue that some Islamists at the very least incited the violence with sectarian speeches made during pro-Morsi protests this summer, and in their Arabic-language websites.
This weekend's killings constitute the latest outburst of the widespread violence that has characterised Egypt's summer. Over a thousand Morsi supporters have been killed by security officials since his removal in July, while dozens of soldiers and policemen have been killed in a series of revenge attacks by Islamist extremists, largely in the northern Sinai peninsula. Earlier on Sunday the campus of al-Azhar, Egypt's oldest university, was the site of skirmishes between pro-Morsi students and riot police.
Egypt is currently polarised between a sizable minority of Islamists furious at Morsi's overthrow and the crackdown on his supporters – and a larger group of Egyptians who have given wholesale backing to the army that ousted him. A small minority refuse the authoritarianism of both groups; they are glad to see Morsi leave but fearful that the army-backed government heralds the return of counter-revolutionary, Mubarak-era governance.
The latter group is currently alarmed about new legislation that may severely stifle street protest, after Egypt's interim cabinet drafted a new law that would significantly curtail demonstrators' rights to free assembly.
"Why are these people deciding what's best for us?" asked Mohamed Hashem, a publisher and leading light of Egypt's revolutionaries who has threatened to leave the country in despair at recent events. "Did all the martyrs sacrifice their souls for nothing?"
But other Egyptians may not be so upset, with many yearning for a return to stability following nearly three years of turmoil, and hoping for an end to the almost daily pro-Morsi protests.

Republican Senators Condemn Violence, Killing Against Egypt Coptic Christians; Call on US to Respond

Republican Senators Condemn Violence, Killing Against Egypt Coptic Christians; Call on US to Respond   
By Morgan Lee , CP Contributor
October 24, 2013|9:54 am
  • Republican Senators
    (Photos L-R: Flickr / AMSF2011, Gage Skidmore, Isafmedia)
    Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker and Roy Blunt have called on Secretary of State John Kerry and the State Department to do more to protect Egypt's Coptic Christians.
Three Republican Senators have urged Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the U.S. State Department to help "stop sectarian violence and end the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt."
Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) argued that the "deteriorating situation of Egypt's Christian minority is a matter of great concern" and that the recent wave of violence directed at Coptic Christians "warrants a clear U.S. response."
The letter was released a day after gunmen stormed a Coptic wedding in Cairo, fired into the crowd and killed four people, including two girls who were eight and 12.
The shooting, which occurred in Egypt's capital, displayed an antagonism against Christians that in recent months had been reserved to Muslim Brotherhood strongholds in southern Egypt. In July, just days after Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown, Islamists overtook the city of Dalga, later forcing the thousands of Christians in the city to either flee or lay low in their homes in seeming house arrest.
In August, pro-Morsi protests turned into anti-Christian riots when crowds burned over 70 churches and Coptic institutions and killed four people.
The senators mentioned the recent attacks, but also spoke to incidents that had occurred during the course and aftermath of the Arab Spring, including "large-scale attacks against Christians in Maspero in October 2011, Imbaba in May 2011, and Alexandria in January 2011," which caused "dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries."
The letter also addressed the apparent complacence of Egyptian authorities in failing to halt the attacks against Copts, citing an 18-hour attack on Christians in Dab'iya where police "were present at the scene but failed to take any action to stop the violence and prevent casualties."
"The local security officer in charge reportedly told an international investigator that 'it's not [the police's] job to stop killings. We just investigate afterward,'" stated the letter.
The senators also called the State Department to put more pressure on the interim government to protect Egyptian religious minorities and to urge the administration to nominate another ambassador-at-large for religious freedom to replace Suzanne Johnson Cook, who resigned last week.
They also expressed their fears that "Egypt is part of a broader trend: religious freedoms throughout the Middle East and South Central Asia, particularly for Christians, are under assault," and said it was imperative that the U.S. respond and "continue to be a forceful defender of religious freedom throughout the world."