Anglican leaders around the world have added their voices to the global wave of solidarity that followed the deadly Palm Sunday attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt. The terror group Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks which left at least 44 people dead and many more injured. A suicide-bomber detonated one bomb inside St George’s Church in Tanta and, hours later, another terrorist detonated a bomb-vest outside St Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria as the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, was finishing the Mass inside.
The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said that he was “shocked and greatly saddened” by the attacks, “particularly as they took place on Palm Sunday,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers are with the injured and the families and friends of those who lost their lives. May they know the comfort and strength of the Lord at this painful time.”
The Anglican Bishop of Egypt, Archbishop Mouneer Anis, said that “sadness overshadowed all Palm Sunday celebrations” across Egypt as news of the attacks emerged. In a message published on ACNS, Bishop Mouneer said that “Intensive security measures and regulations have been made since this last Saturday. This included security personnel emptying all the streets around the churches and cathedrals of cars with extra policemen and sniffer dogs checking all church buildings and worshippers before Services start.
“I believe these measures were done to safeguard all church buildings in the country. Although the security was very tight, the evildoers have their own ways and it is extremely difficult to achieve 100 per cent security. This was also the case behind the recent terrorist attacks in Sweden, Britain, Germany and France.”
He urged Christians to pray for Egypt.
The Archbishop of Canada, Fred Hiltz, urged people to pray for the victims and for Coptic Christians around the world. “All of this carnage and chaos marked the beginning of liturgies remembering the Lord’s Passion and Death,” he said. “This will be a very difficult Holy Week for Coptic Christians, not only in Egypt, where there will be multiple funerals, but throughout the world as they mourn the dead and pray for those wounded and traumatised by this vicious attack.”
In Australia, the Assistant Bishop in Melbourne Diocese, Paul Barker, attended a press conference alongside other Church leaders, including the city’s Coptic Bishop, Anba Suriel.
“We sympathise, we grieve with them,” Bishop Barker said. “We see this as a double tragedy – that on the day that Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem on a donkey as the prince of peace, such an act of violence should happen.
“We hope and pray the people will come to know Jesus as a prince who leads in peace.”
At the end of the press conference Bishop Baker led those attending in prayer for persecuted Christians in Egypt and elsewhere, that God would “guard them and protect them and uphold them”.
Bishop David Hamid from the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe wrote an open letter to Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, to assure him “of my closeness in prayer to you and to your Church at this most sad and troubled time.”
Bishop David said: “With other Anglicans in this Diocese in Europe, we pray for those who have died in this attack, that Christ our God will grant them rest with his saints, where there is no pain or grief, but life everlasting. We pray for all who are injured and for those who mourn, for the strength and comfort of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
“May the Holy Angels keep your people in Egypt safe from further violence. As we have carried our branches of palm we carry in our hearts the lament of your people, who are our brothers and sisters in Christ, trusting in our Lord, who is victorious over sin and death.”
A number of Anglican churches in Europe are part of the Conference of European Churches (CEC). Its general secretary, Father Heikki Huttunen, noted that: “Egypt is one of the lands of the Bible blessed by the presence of Our Lord. Coptic Christians represent a continuity of millenniums in this country, which is considered one of the cradles of human civilisation.
“Peaceful coexistence and mutual respect are part of the experience of Christians and Muslims sharing the villages, cities and the fields of this land nurtured by the Nile,” he said. “We pray that the Egyptian tradition of mutual hospitality between Christians and Muslims during Easter and Ramadan will give resilience and hope to all Egyptians going through these events caused by godless wrath and evil.”
And the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, called on the Egyptian government to more to safeguard the country’s Christian communities.
“In the face of this brutality, the human family, all people of faith and of good will, must stand together to recommit to respecting and caring for one another, to protecting one another, and to preventing such violence,” he said as he appealed to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and religious leaders across the country “to act swiftly and boldly to safeguard the fundamental religious rights of worshippers of all faiths, to ensure security in the face of violence and to guarantee justice for all people.”
Melbourne Church Leaders’ Press Conference