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Egypt's Christians hover between fear and trust in God
"When attacks are carried out to keep people from going to divine services, more than usual actually attend."
Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut, Egypt—commenting on the Dec. 11 suicide bomber attack that killed 26 people and wounded scores at an Orthodox church in Cairo— confirms that the country’s Christian community fears further violence and terror. However, in an interview Dec. 22, 2016 with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, he also sounded a note of hope, citing the efforts of Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. The majority of Egypt’s Christians belong to the Orthodox Coptic Church; some 250,000 faithful belong to the Catholic Coptic Church.
By Andrea Krogmann
What is the current situation in Egypt, from a Christian perspective?
Bishop Kyrillos: There is of course deep sorrow. However, at the same time, we are seeing a deep trust in God and great strength. The same can be said today as was the case in the wake of previous acts of terrorism: when attacks are carried out to keep people from going to divine services, more than usual actually attend.
How did your non-Christian environment react?
We are experiencing a great deal of solidarity and sympathy! The state reacted immediately and opened investigations. That means a lot, especially when you consider that in other cases, such as the attack on Alexandria a few years ago, there are still no leads. In those cases, people were convinced that the police and the state were helping the perpetrators. That is not the case this time. A president who personally attends the funeral service and shakes the hand of each family member and all Church representatives sends out a strong signal.
Have special security measures been put into place?
In addition to external security, which is the job of the authorities, they want to train our people, show them how to be vigilant. Our scouts, who are responsible for security on feast days, will receive civilian security training. Metal detectors are to be installed in front of our cathedral and our guest house.
Do the Christians feel adequately protected by this?
For many years now, soldiers have been stationed in front of a number of the churches. However, the problem is that they are neither very well equipped nor very well trained. Better methods need to be found, such as better trained and better equipped security forces.
What Christmas wish do you have for your country and your believers?
I wish for peace for our country, of course. We see the efforts of our president, who wants Egypt to have a future. These efforts are being undermined by terrorist attacks. The country also needs peace for tourism, which is an important source of income. If there is no peace, then no tourists will come.
Orthodox Coptic Pope Tawadros II presides over funeral of bomb attack victims; ACN photo