At midday on Sunday 9 January, please join us as we support the Coptic Church’s call to prayer for peace and tolerance in Egypt in response to the bombing of worshippers at an Alexandria church in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
At least 23 people were killed in the attack and around 90 injured, sparking violent protest in Egypt’s streets.
Christian Aid partners are helping those affected; calling for peace and reconciliation; as well as doing long-term work to improve interfaith relationships in Egypt.
Attack and repercussions
As worshippers left al-Qiddissin (The Saints) Church in Alexandria after midnight mass on New Year’s Day, a suspected suicide bomb went off. While the majority of victims were Christians attending the service, Muslim security guards and passers-by were caught up in the blast.
The attack followed threats against Egyptian Christians by extremist Islamic groups, but no group has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing.
In the days since the attack, angry Christians have protested in Egypt’s cities, calling for more protection for the religious minority. There have been Christian-Muslim clashes, and some protestors have clashed violently with police.
Christian Aid partner responds
One of our local partners in Egypt is the Coptic Evangelical Organisation for Social Services (CEOSS).
As part of a group of Christian and Muslim civil society organisations, media representatives, religious leaders and prominent individuals, CEOSS responded by calling for calm.
It released a statement imploring ‘Egyptian citizens to stand side by side as they have been known to do over the course of history in response to this brutal act of terrorism against the unity of our nation, its future and its destiny.’
The group is organising support to those affected by the blasts, including providing financial support to the poorest among the victims’ families, leading a campaign for blood donations for transfusions, and asking the Governor of Alexandria to hold a national memorial event for the victims and their families.
The group also plan to meet monthly to discuss cultural and social issues facing Egypt, and formulate actions to promote peace and tolerance.
Tackling poverty, promoting peace
Another of our local partners is Coptic Orthodox Church Bless (COC Bless). Although a Christian organisation, they never evangelise and their work involves both Christians and Muslims.
COC Bless director Bishop Youannes says their projects tend to improve relations between people of different faiths ‘because people work together on our village committees. They get to know and trust each other better, and they achieve something together’.
This has certainly been the case in El Gawley village in southern Egypt. Locals say that COC Bless has brought Muslims and Christians together in many ways – through the farmers’ cooperative which has increased incomes five times, and by working with Muslim and Christian faith leaders to eradicate female genital mutilation, and through working side by side to deliver health and education programmes.
Local farmer Haji Kotep is a part of the cooperative, which has increased his income and brought him into closer contact with his Christian neighbours.
He says that community relations have improved because ‘good relationships grow with cooperation. I advise both Muslims and Christians to cooperate together. Whenever we relate to Christians our love becomes more, and our God loves us more.’
Christian Aid works throughout Egypt with people of all faiths and none to tackle poverty, promote human and labour rights, and increase access to services.
We believe that protecting rights, challenging inequality and bringing people together is the key to a peaceful and prosperous future for all.
Time of prayer
The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, Bishop Angaelos, has announced a time of prayer for peace and solidarity in Egypt to take place at midday on Sunday 9 January.
Christian Aid encourages people to join this call. In the words of Bishop Angaelos: ‘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.’