My husband had back surgery and he’s been rehabbing with a physical therapist who is a Coptic Christian. Her parents migrated to the US from Egypt. When we mentioned the Palm Sunday bombings of churches in Tanta — 60 miles from Cairo — and Alexandria, she acted as if she’s resigned to it. She said, “Our churches have been bombed for 200 years.”
The Copts are no strangers to persecution — or martyrdom. Coptic believers make up one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, dating back to 55 A.D. Their founder John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, was martyred one Easter.
Islamic State took responsibility for the Palm Sunday suicide attacks that ripped through these two congregations during worship — imagine it — claiming the lives of 44 worshipers and wounding more than 125.
This violence follows a devastating attack on a Coptic church in suburban Cairo in December that killed 29 Copts, and which was supported by slick propaganda videos distributed online.
Losing territory elsewhere, ISIS has taken advantage of a security vacuum in Egypt and is publicly urging the targeting of Christians. Plus, at certain mosques, preachers invoke the wrath of God on Christians over loudspeakers in their Friday sermons. A similar message is spewed on Islamic television channels.
Egypt’s Christian minority, which comprises about 10 percent of the population, has long suffered from casual bigotry that, its members say, hinders their access to jobs and universities and has frequently erupted into mob violence in some rural areas.
More recently, ISIS has zeroed in on the Coptic community as a vehicle to challenge the Egyptian government. Egypt’s President Sisi counts Christian leaders among his staunchest allies and has pledged to protect them. But his army is stretched thin.
An ISIS leader in Syria told The Wall Street Journal, “As the situation gets harder in Syria, the Islamic State will hit wherever it hurts the crusaders and the apostates.”
Our brothers and sisters in Egypt need our prayers.