Palm Sunday Blasts Target Egypt’s Coptic Christians

By: Laura Steiner

Explosions at two of Egypt’s Coptic Christian Churches have killed an estimated 45 people today.  The blasts hit St. George’s Coptic Church in Tanta killing 29 people.  The second blast hit St. Mark’s Coptic Church in Alexandria killing 16 people.  People were attending Palm Sunday Mass.

Pope Twardos II, leader of the Egyptian Coptic Church was at the church in Alexandria, and is unhurt according to media reports.  Both were suicide bombers.  In Tanta, the bomb went off near the altar.  In Alexandria, the bomber was prevented from entering the church by police.  According to the interior ministry four officers are among the dead.  The bomber blew himself up after being refused entry.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is claiming responsibility for both attacks.  Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has declared a 90 day state of emergency.  According to media reports, he has promised to deploy the military across the country to “protect vital, and important infrastructure.”  Egypt will enter a three-day mourning period.

The bombings seem as if they were timed for high impact.  Today is Palm Sunday, considered one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar marking the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.

Violence against Coptic Christians  has increased over the last three years.  In April, 2013, two people were killed in clashes with local residents  outside St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo while mourning the deaths of four Coptic Christians in religions.

In February, 2016 three Christian teenagers were sentenced to five years for allegedly insulting Islam.  25 people were killed in December, 2016 when a bomb exploded at a Coptic cathedral in Cairo.  ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Trump, Trudeau React to blasts

International reaction to the bombings has begun.  U.S. President Donald Trump had no official statement, tweeting his faith in Sisi’s ability to look after the situation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released formal statement promising the full support of the Canadian government.”Canada stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Egypt and the Egyptian people, and we offer our full assistance to the Government of Egypt in this difficult time,” Trudeau said.  Trudeau issued the statement while attending ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge.