World Watch Monitor

One of the priests at the Mar Girgis (St George) Cathedral in Tanta, one of two churches attacked by suicide bombers on Palm Sunday, says his church will not hold its usual Easter Day celebrations as a mark of respect towards the families affected.

“There will not be any festivities, only a simple Mass on the night before Easter,” Fr Stephanos Samy told World Watch Monitor.

“There will be no decorations in any place in the church. We had to take into account the feelings of those who are suffering from the pain of losing loved ones, or were hurt themselves.”

Typically on Easter Day, the priests invite local officials, like the governor, security director, members of parliament and other locals – Muslims and Christians – for a joint celebration, but this year the church will only open from 10am to 2pm, when people will be able to meet the priests to offer condolences. The priests will then visit the families affected.

Fr Samy added that an increased security presence in Tanta has helped to reassure Christians scared after the attack.

“There are security forces, police and secret police are at every church in Tanta now,” he said. “Explosives experts and police dogs have been deployed to comb the churches. Full-body scanners have been placed in every church.

“The security forces have blocked off access to roads that have churches on them the streets of our church with iron barriers and anyone from entering unless they could prove their identity and pass through the scanner. These increased security measures at churches restore a sense of security for Christians.”

He added that, instead of encouraging Christians to stay away from church, the attacks had emboldened them to keep going.

“Many people attended the prayers in Holy week and I expect that many will also attend the Mass the night before Easter,” he said. “These terrorist incidents will not affect people’s desire to come to church to pray, but instead make them more determined to attend.

“These events do not intimidate us but increase our desire to hold Masses and prayers in church. Copts are not shaken by these events. Instead, many of them want to be martyrs for the Church.”

The priest added that the terrorists aimed to make Egypt “seem unsafe” at a time when the Pope is due to visit the country, and shortly after the visit of Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to the United States.

“Terrorists aim to divide us and destroy our national unity, but I want to reassure people that as long as we stay united, we don’t need to worry about Egypt, because our strength is in our unity,” he said.

“Terrorists are trying to instil the spirit of sadness and defeat among our people – Muslims and Christians – and among our young people, but there is no reason to grieve. Whoever is the victim of terrorism does not die. He is a martyr and the martyr is alive, but whoever carries out the terrorist act, he is the one who dies.

“We must not despair. We remain confident about the future of our country, as after every difficulty comes an easier period; after every night comes day.”