Last year on Palm Sunday, two Egyptian churches, St George Church in Tanta and St Mark Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria, were bombed. A few months prior in December of 2016 a third church, Botroseya Church in Cairo, was bombed. Overall, upwards of 70 people were killed and hundreds injured.
It seems that the danger Christians in Egypt face is on a continual upswing. Some sources say that 128 Christians were killed in Egypt last year. And there’s no denying that these attacks are a result of religious tension. Just last month, a church that applied for a government’s license to expand their building was attacked by a mob of Muslim villagers. Church property was damaged and a few of the members minorly injured.
Egypt has been under a state of emergency for over a year now following the April 2017 attacks. The government has deployed police to guard churches when Christians gather. Heavier security is set up during special celebrations. According to one source, blocking streets and using metal detectors while checking the identity of churchgoers has become a matter of routine.
This is the governments attempt to thwart the extremist attacks that seem to consistently target Christians in Egypt. And recently, their response to these acts of terrorism took a more aggressive turn.
An Egyptian military court has sentenced 36 people to death in connection to these three attacks as well as an attack that killed eight policemen in January of 2017. According to Daily News Egypt, 48 people stood trial. Thirty-one of these defendants are in prison, and 17 are still on the lam.
Greg Musselman of the Voice of the Martyrs Canada says this big news raises some bigger questions:
“In one hand you go, ok, what’s the motivation here? Is this a pure motivation in terms of protecting not only Christians but police officers?”
Really, Musselman explains, the terrorism that is hurting Christians is a problem for the entire nation of Egypt. He points out groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS saying, “Their desire is a strict interpretation of Sharia law. And there’s no room for anybody that dissents with them, and that would include the government.”
Still, taking such a strong stand against these terrorists is a major move by the Egyptian government, leading Musselman to believe that, perhaps, Egypt is trying to appease Western countries on which they depend on for aid and support.
“Is that because they’re trying to send a message to the West? Perhaps that is. Are they concerned about the fellow Egyptian citizens as … Coptic Christians? That may be the case. I hope that’s the case. Or, are they fearful that more of a militant Islam, like the previous government, the Muslim Brotherhood—you know that’s the kind of government that these groups want. Is that why they’re trying to curb back the extremists?”
Musselman hopes that whatever the motive behind this sentencing, that it would be a good and sincere motive to clamp down on extremism.
Ask God to move in Egypt. Pray not only for Christians to stand strong in their faith, but also for their enemies to come to know Jesus and turn their lives towards Him.