Anglican church leaders have expressed their prayerful solidarity with the Coptic Church after the latest terror attack in Egypt on Friday (26 May) left 29 Christians dead. A further 24 people were injured in the attack in the Minya region, which targeted pilgrims who were visiting the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor. Daesh has claimed responsibility.
Reports from the scene say that between eight and 10 attackers wearing military uniforms forced the pilgrims’ bus to as it approached the town of Maghagha. When they refused to renounce their faith, the attackers opened fire, killing 24 people. Ten of the dead were children. Just three children on the bus survived – one was pushed under his seat by his mother who then hid him with bags.
In response to the attack, the Egyptian air force carried out strikes on suspected terrorist camps in Libya.
The Primate of the Anglican Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Archbishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, said that the province stands “in prayer and in solidarity with Pope Tawadros II, the families of those who died and injured, the Coptic Church in general and with all the people of Egypt.”
In a statement, expressing condolences, Archbishop Suheil said: “The convoy which was on its way for peaceful pilgrimage for prayer and devotion was confronted with the evil of terrorism and horrors of death and destruction.
“This is yet another cowardly attack on the Christian community in Egypt, the latest was on which took place on Palm Sunday in Tanta and Alexandria, where over one hundred were killed or injured.”
He continued: “May the Lord bless Egypt, the place that provided refuge for our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Family, and bring refuge and give comfort to all those who are vulnerable and persecuted in Egypt and the whole region of the Middle East.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that he was “heartbroken by the news of another awful attack on men, women and children, murdered because of their faith in Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Welby said: “In this time of deep sorrow and pain, we commit to prayer those who have died, those who have been injured and those who have lost loved ones. We pray that all might know the presence of God in this dark time and draw closer to the Great Redeemer, who is Jesus Christ.
“We pray for the people and nation of Egypt, for peace, and for a united rejection of the horrific actions of those who perpetrate terror.
“I pray for His Holiness Pope Tawadros II as he leads the Coptic Orthodox Church, for wisdom and courage, for unshaking faith, for steadfastness and for endurance.
“It was a privilege to welcome His Holiness to Lambeth Palace earlier this month and to pray with him at Westminster Abbey.
“During this visit His Holiness presented me with an icon of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt to escape King Herod’s persecution. Today we stand with all those who fear for their lives because of their faith. We stand with Pope Tawadros and all the Christians of Egypt, in prayer and solidarity.”
The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, Bishop Angaelos, a member of the Anglican – Oriental Orthodox International Commission (AOOIC), wrote a powerful statement in response to this and other recent attacks, in which he told those who carry out such crimes that they are loved.
“The violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent and detestable, but you are loved,” he wrote.
“You are loved by God, your creator, for he created you in his image and according to his likeness, and placed you on this earth for much greater things, according to his plan for all humankind. You are loved by me and millions like me, not because of what you do, but what you are capable of as that wonderful creation of God, who has created us with a shared humanity. You are loved by me and millions like me because I, and we, believe in transformation.”
Bishop Angaelos acknowledged that his message “is far from the reaction that many may have expected,” but said that “the Christian message is just that, to look at our world as through the eyes of God, who loves all and who desires that all be liberated through him.”