Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton and Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs has issued the following statement on the Dec. 29 deadly attack on a Coptic Church and nearby bookstore in Egypt.
Bishop Bambera’s full statement follows:
“This morning, at least ten people were killed as armed men attempted to enter Mar Mina Church in Helwan City, south of Cairo and a nearby bookshop. Among the dead are two policemen. The assault took place as a gunman tried to breach the church’s security cordon. It is estimated that over 2000 attacks on Coptic Christians by extremists have occurred in the last three years alone.
One week ago, on December 22, hundreds of Muslim demonstrators attacked an unlicensed church south of Cairo wounding three people. Demonstrators chanted anti-Christian slogans and called for the church’s demolition. The interior of the church was completely destroyed.
Earlier this year, on May 26, masked militants opened fired on a bus packed with Coptic Christians, including children on their way to the monastery of St. Samule the Confessor in Maghagha, in Minya governorate. In that attack, 28 people were killed and 22 were wounded.
On Palm Sunday, April 9, twin suicide bombings struck churches in the coastal city of Alexandria and the Nile Delta city of Tanta. At least 43 people were killed and many others were injured. One of the bombings narrowly missed a Palm Sunday service which was to be presided over by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II.
These attacks represent only some of the many attacks that have occurred over the past several years, targeting faithful of the Coptic Orthodox Church, who account for almost 10% of Egypt’s population. In the course of such rampant attacks, Muslims have also been targeted as well as police, military and members of the news media. On November 24 of this year, terrorists detonated a bomb at a mosque in Bir al-Abd in the northern Sinai Peninsula of Egypt killing over 300 worshipers and spraying gunfire on those escaping. Sadly, attacks such as these represent countless numbers of ongoing acts of violence that continue to burden the Egyptian nation.
I ask Catholics and men and women of faith and good will to pray for peace in Egypt and the Middle East and for all victims of religious and political hatred. I especially ask Catholics to renew their support, love and prayers for our Coptic brethren who are enduring martyrdom for the sake of Christ. May all continue to receive from heaven the grace to witness to what is good and noble in the human spirit, recovery for all those who have been injured, and eternal rest for those who have died.”