On New Year’s Day, Islamic terrorists bombed the Church of Two Saints in Alexandria, Egypt. A suicide bomber detonated his car filled with explosives as Christian worshippers left the church after midnight mass.
The bomber packed the explosive device with TNT and metal projectiles to achieve the maximum number of casualties. The terror attack killed 21 and wounded 79.
Before the bombing, an al-Qaeda group demanded the release of two women they say were being held against their will after converting to Islam. Earlier, an al-Qaeda-linked website said Muslims must attack Egyptian churches, including the Church of Two Saints.
“... every Muslim who cares about the honor of his sisters to bomb these churches during Christmas celebrations, when they will be most crowded," the statement read.
This bombing represents the latest in a series of deadly attacks against Christians in Egypt, accompanied by a history of discrimination that some say runs deep in Egyptian society.
Following the attack, Christians clashed with police in an unprecedented display of anger against the government they say tolerates these attacks.
Their anger is palpable.
MEMRI - the Middle East Media Research Institute - published a scathing op-ed by Hani Shukrallah, a Coptic Christian and the managing editor of the Egyptian Al-Ahram weekly.
Shukrallah called it “J’accuse” after the oft-quoted article by Emile Zola, written during the Dreyfus affair in 1898.
"I am no Zola, but I too can accuse. And it's not the bloodthirsty criminals of al-Qaeda or whatever other gang of hoodlums involved in the horror of Alexandria that I am concerned with," Shukrallah wrote.
Below is an excerpt:
"I accuse a government that seems to think that by outbidding the Islamists it will also outflank them.Shukrallah also warned of the specter of an Egypt void of Christians:
"I accuse the host of MPs and government officials who cannot help but take their own personal bigotries along to the parliament, or to the multitude of government bodies, national and local, from which they exercise unchecked brutal, yet at the same time hopelessly inept, authority ... But most of all, I accuse the millions of supposedly moderate Muslims among us; those who've been growing more and more prejudiced, inclusive, and narrow-minded with every passing year.
"I accuse those among us who would rise up in fury over a decision to halt construction of a Muslim Center near ground zero in New York, but applaud the Egyptian police when they halt the construction of a staircase in a Coptic church in the Omranya district of Greater Cairo. I've been around, and I have heard you speak, in your offices, in your clubs, at your dinner parties: 'The Copts must be taught a lesson,' 'the Copts are growing more arrogant,' 'the Copts are holding secret conversions of Muslims', and in the same breath, 'the Copts are preventing Christian women from converting to Islam, kidnapping them, and locking them up in monasteries.'
"I accuse you all because in your bigoted blindness you cannot even see the violence that you are committing [against] logic and sheer common sense; [you cannot see that while] you accuse the whole world of using a double standard against us, [you are] wholly incapable of showing a minimum awareness of your own blatant double standard."
"And finally, I accuse the liberal intellectuals, both Muslim and Christian who, whether complicit, afraid, or simply unwilling to do or say anything that may displease 'the masses', have stood aside, finding it sufficient to join in one futile chorus of denunciation... even as the massacres spread wider, and grow more horrifying."
"We've been here before; we've done exactly that, yet the massacres continue, each more horrible than the one before it, and the bigotry and intolerance spread deeper and wider into every nook and cranny of our society. It is not easy to empty Egypt of its Christians; they've been here for as long as there has been Christianity in the world. Close to a millennium and half of Muslim rule did not eradicate the nation's Christian community; rather it maintained it sufficiently strong and sufficiently vigorous so as to play a crucial role in shaping the national, political, and cultural identity of modern Egypt.But what can people do?
"Yet now, two centuries after the birth of the modern Egyptian nation state, and as we embark on the second decade of the 21stcentury, the previously unheard-of seems no longer beyond imagining: a Christian-free Egypt, one where the cross will have slipped out of the crescent's embrace, and off the flag symbolizing our modern national identity. I hope that if and when that day comes I will have been long dead, but dead or alive, this will be an Egypt which I do not recognize and to which I have no desire to belong."
Rev. Majed El-Shafie, the Egyptian-born founder of One World International, a Canadian based organization dedicated to helping persecuted Christians, is encouraging Christians in the West to both pray and take action.
He issued this appeal:
“In the midst of these attacks, Coptic Orthodox Christians will be celebrating Christmas on Jan. 7. There is great concern that more attacks will take place in Egypt in the coming week. We must not sit back, comfortably enjoying the warm afterglow of our own Christmas celebrations while leaving our brothers and sisters to fend for themselves. We must stand up for our Egyptian brothers and sisters and for their right to live and worship freely in peace and security. In the midst of this Christmas season we have no excuse.
• for courage and comfort for those who have lost loved ones and for the injured and their families in both Egypt and Nigeria; pray that they would be strengthened in their faith and reliance on God through these events;
• that the attackers would appreciate the wrongfulness of their acts and be compelled to seek truth and forgiveness; pray that they would experience the love and forgiveness of God and in turn apply their energies toward spreading peace;
• for the Egyptian and Nigerian authorities, that they would take these threats seriously and truly appreciate how important it is for the well-being of their respective countries as a whole that they respect and protect the lives, security, and human rights of all their citizens regardless of their religion; and,
• for the Christian communities in Egypt and Nigeria, that in the midst of these difficult circumstances they would be filled with the love of Christ toward their Muslim neighbours and co-workers so they would know the meaning of true love, forgiveness, and justice and be able to experience true peace through the Prince of Peace.
The Bible teaches that faith without action is dead, so please take action urgently...:
• in Canada, to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister Cannon, thanking them for Minister Cannon’s statement on the attack in Egypt and urging them to pressure the Egyptian government into protecting its Christian citizens; explain that this is not a matter of sectarian violence but another episode in a history of targeted attacks against Egypt’s Christian minority and it must be dealt with as such; encourage them also to take note of and address the attacks in Nigeria;
• in the United States, to President Obama and the Secretary of State thanking them for President Obama’s statement on the events in Egypt and Nigeria and encouraging them to follow through and to pressure authorities in those countries to respect and protect the rights and security of their Christian citizens; and,
• to the Egyptian and Nigerian ambassadors in your country, demanding that they bring all those responsible for these attacks to justice and that they protect their Christian citizens from further attacks by respecting and promoting international human rights standards; for the Egyptian government in particular, demand that the authorities provide sufficient resources to protect the Coptic community and prevent further attacks during the time of Coptic Christmas, on January 6 and 7.
Remember that the persecuted Christians are dying every day, but they are still smiling. They are in a very deep dark night, but they have the candle of the Lord. The enemy can have a very strong weapon and a very strong army, but we have the Lord Almighty. They can kill the dreamer, but they cannot kill the dream" in the Lord’s name.”