“I knew I could die going to church”

Image: In a church in Cairo, @David Degner, Egypt

pelerin.com, Mikăl Corre, Egypt, 2017-04-14

The Pilgrim newspaper attended Holy Week in Egypt with Coptic Christians, who were attacked by the Islamic State on two churches on Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017.

In Egypt, most Christian churches resemble the American military camp at Fort Knox. Security barrier with armed policemen with Kalashnikov rifles controlling the entrance. Entrances, surrounding fences sometimes even have barriers, turning into winding paths with many barriers. During Holy Week, the church is decorated with white, blue and pink paint colors. The fear of an attack was still etched in his mind.

Alexandria and Tanta are two churches attacked by Islamic State suicide bombers, killing 44 people. These attacks took place during the Palm Sunday Mass. After the attack, Egypt declared a state of emergency and tightened security. On April 13, the state announced that it had identified one of the Tanta Church suicide bombers.

Resist through prayer

“As I was going to Mass on Maundy Thursday this morning, I thought about the danger of being assaulted,” said Eman, a 36-year-old Kop believer. I knew I could die in church at any time. I’m scared.” Eman sat in the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Family in the neighborhood of El-Zaytoun. During the 1970s, Our Lady appeared in this suburban area.

Colleagues told me, “Don’t go to church, you’re crazy!”

Also on Maundy Thursday, Sandra, 27, went to the Church of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus in the Shubra region, where the Kop community is located. The Christians of Cairo were very devoted to Saint Thérèse. “Going to church is a challenge,” she says. My friends all say ‘don’t go to church, crazy! But that’s what the terrorists of the Islamic State want: “Christians stay at home”. So I had to go, I resisted them with prayer. I continue to go to church year after year no matter what.

See also  A Syrian choir on tour in France to save the cathedral of Aleppo

Some even believe that the attacks of Lent have a spiritual significance. “He’s not afraid of anyone,” said Michael, a 21-year-old Boy Scout at Holy Family Church. “These attacks help me feel the passion of Jesus on the cross.”

Rebuilding a “peaceful Egypt”

Father Patrick, a Carmelite priest who came to Cairo in 2010, repeated: “This Holy Week is the week when we really live the Passion of Jesus. This year, the suffering of Christ is the suffering of all the people of Egypt. It is not only the commemoration of the martyrdom of Christ, but the realization of his passion.” But after the Passion comes the Resurrection… and Pope Francis will come on April 28 and 29. Such was the content of the speech of the Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak to the faithful on April 13. Some Copts are Orthodox and they have their own “pope”.

Father Patrick told the newspaper Pèlerin: “After the attacks, many people feel immense pain, followed by anger and sometimes discouragement. I try not to sanctify the event but to put it in the light of the Christian faith: it is hope.

Orthodox Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak has high hopes for Pope Francis’ peace journey for a peaceful Egypt: “This visit is really important for us, both for Egyptians and for faithful Christians, not just Catholics. After the attacks, Francis was able to cancel the trip, but he did not. It shows that he came to us, to Egypt: a friend of those who are most precious, of those who are close to you when you are in trouble.”

See also  Rare travel experience in Lebanon from the actual trip

Solidarity beyond borders

“As soon as I heard about two attacks of which Christians were victims, I immediately bought a plane ticket for Cairo”, declared Mgr Pascal Gollnisch, director of the Work of the East. Monsignor Pascal Gollnisch is a French prelate who heads Action Eastern, an organization that helps Christians in more than twenty countries.

“I think it’s important to come and pray with them,” Monsignor said. You say ‘pray for what? Praying does not change anything”. But to know that here in Cairo, as everywhere in the world, people are praying for them at this time is very important. I just bring this message, absolutely without political character. I think, as many French people feel towards these Christians.