[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, took part in a vigil at Westminster Abbey last night in honour of the victims of Sunday’s bomb attack on the Coptic Cathedral compound in Cairo. He was joined by the general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, Bishop Angaelos, the Egyptian Ambassador, Mr Nasser Kamel, as well as numerous other faith leaders, diplomats, and members of the UK’s Coptic Orthodox community. The vigil took place at the Abbey’s Innocent Victims’ Memorial.
Sunday’s bomb took place in St Peter’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, part of the cathedral compound. Most of the victims were women and children – the bomb was detonated in a chapel used mainly by women. As the names of the victims were read out, red roses were placed on the memorial, in between lit candles, representing the lives of those lost in the attack
“It is deeply moving for myself and our community that all of you gathered here today have done so at such short notice,” Bishop Angaelos said. “It is a shame that it takes events like these to gather us, but the fact that we do gather means that there is significantly greater good than evil in this world.
“It is tragic that families have been broken apart just before the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity, and I can only begin to imagine their sorrow. While we pray for the families and support them pastorally in whatever way we can, we know that the loss of a loved one is something that only God can truly comfort at this time through His grace.
“I am personally moved that my sisters and brothers continue, despite their suffering, to live with dignity, integrity, resilience, love and forgiveness, which is demonstrated through their genuine Christian witness.”
He continued: “People are indeed surprised when we speak of forgiveness at times like these but we are called to forgive and we must continue to do so. Of course there is a call for justice but never for vengeance, reconciliation but never carelessness.
“In our unity as the Body of Christ, the family of faith, and the global family, we must continue to advocate for and safeguard the dignity and sanctity of every life, the importance of our mission and our ministry here as God’s children, and to continue, like these candles to be light in darkness.”
In a prayer for the victims, Archbishop Welby said: “We pray for all those who have lost loved ones that they may know God’s comforting presence, and for the nation of Egypt as it mourns.
“As we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ, the Prince of Peace, our prayer is that in Egypt Muslims and Christians together may be strengthened in their quest for peace and their rejection of the crude and cruel tactics of the terrorists.”
Ambassador Kamel of Egypt, said: said that “the people of Egypt remain united against ignorance, intolerance and extremism.
“These heinous crimes that aim to undermine the unity of the Egyptian people, regardless of their religious affiliation, will never succeed, nor will the bonds that tie its religious establishments ever be broken.
“Peace and harmony have always prevailed in Egypt. Let me remind you – as we also approach the Nativity celebrations – that the Virgin Mary, after giving birth to Jesus Christ, sought refuge in Egypt to protect her new born from tyranny and intolerance.”
On Monday, the Egyptian President, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, attended a state funeral for the 24 victims led by Pope Tawadros II, the spiritual leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The service marked the start of three days of official mourning.
Last night, the Daesh terror group claimed responsibility for the attack, and warned that “every infidel and apostate in Egypt and everywhere should know that our attack . . . continues.”