Egyptian Copts wary of celebrating their Christmas

The Coptic Christmas is January 7 and today’s run-up to this holy day is marked with caution in the wake of the New Year’s Eve bombing which claimed the lives of 21 people and wounded another 70. Egyptian authorities have been stepping up security around various churches as tonight, January 6th, many will be celebrating Christmas Eve Mass.
 
According to reports, authorities in Egypt are not allowing any vehicles to be parked in front of a church. 70,000 policeman are fanning out across the country to provide security at various churches both for this evening and for tomorrow, Christmas day. Supposedly armoured cars will also be stationed next to some churches as a further deterrent to any violence.
 
Britain’s Telegraph is reporting that a crude explosive device was found today in a church in the southern city of Minya. No doubt such reports will certainly raise the spectre of an incident similar to December 31.
 
The BBC is reporting that the Copts plan to hold a special service on Sunday, January 9 across Europe to remember those who lost their lives in 2010. The Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in the United Kingdom issued the following statement:
 
We are deeply saddened and disturbed that once again, days of joy and celebration have been turned into a time of mourning and weeping. Our immediate thoughts and prayers are with all those who were affected by the bombing at the Church of Saints Mark and Peter in Alexandria: those who have lost their lives, their families, those who were injured, members of that parish, Christian communities in general, and Christians throughout the land of Egypt.
 
This was a time when Christians went as families to pray in the safety of the house of God. Men, women, children and the elderly gathered together in prayer for a happy and peaceful new year. Instead, they became the innocent victims of a most horrific, callus and cowardly act of terror and violence.
 
As a Church that has lost millions to martyrdom throughout the centuries we understand that dying for one’s Faith is a blessing and a privilege; we also recognise the necessity of carrying our cross. At the same time however, we believe life and liberty to be gifts from God which we must honour and value. Advocating for these values, whether for our own brethren or for strangers, is a matter of Christian responsibility.
 
We are concerned that incidents of violence and terror against Christians in Egypt are increasingly spiralling out of control. They continue to go unchecked and unresolved, and their perpetrators are not brought to justice. This passiveness has sent out the message that Christians in Egypt are an easy and legitimate target. Today’s event demonstrates this and puts matters on a wholly new level.
 
We therefore agree with the address given by His Excellency President Mubarak in which he states that ‘a red line has been crossed.’ This is indeed a turning point in Egypt’s history. These are no longer sectarian scuffles or attacks on Christian Churches and communities, but are premeditated acts of terrorism and violence that are unprecedented in Egypt. A very different solution is now needed to deal with a very different kind of problem.
 
We pray for the peace of all, Christians and Muslims alike, and that every Egyptian may enjoy freedom and security to live and practise Faith without fear of violence or terror; protected by the various arms of the nation state they call home.
 
Bishop Angaelos
General Bishop
Coptic Orthodox Church
United Kingdom 
Click HERE to read more from William Belle 
 
References
 
Wikipedia: Coptic Calendar
The Coptic calendar, also called the Alexandrian calendar, is used by the Coptic Orthodox Church and still used in Egypt. This calendar is based on the ancient Egyptian calendar.
 
Coptic Christmas is observed on the 7th day of January.
 
BBC: Coptic Orthodox Church
The Coptic Orthodox Church is the main Christian Church in Egypt, where it has between 6 and 11 million members.
 
While most Copts live in Egypt, the Church has around a million members outside Egypt; there are over 100 churches in the USA and a cathedral in the UK.
 
Copts believe that their Church dates back to around 50 AD, when the Apostle Mark is said to have visited Egypt. Mark is regarded as the first Pope of Alexandria. This makes it one of the earliest Christian groups outside the Holy Land.
 
The early Church suffered persecution under the Roman Empire, and there were intermittent persecutions after Egypt became a Muslim country.
 
Modern Copts claim that they are still disadvantaged and play a lesser part in Egyptian public life than their numbers justify. There are still occasional violent clashes between Copts and Muslims.
 
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