Yesterday, Palm Sunday 2017, two Coptic churches were bombed. St. George’s Church in Tanta, about 60 miles north of Cairo, suffered a bomb that went off during service. Early speculation is that a bomb had been placed under a seat at the front of the church and it exploded during service. At least 27 were killed and dozens more injured.
Just a few hours later, St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, was hit by a bomb, killing 17 and injuring dozens more. St. Mark’s Cathedral is the seat of Pope Tawadros, the spiritual leader of the Coptic Christians.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President of Egypt, has condemned the attacks and called for a three-day period of mourning and a three-month state of emergency. Sisi ran on a campaign of unity and a vow to protect his country, and religious minorities in particular, from Islamic terrorists.
President Donal Trump tweeted, “So sad to hear of the terrorist attack in Egypt. U.S. strongly condemns. I have great confidence that President Al Sisi will handle situation properly.”
Pope Francis also condemned the bombing, saying, “I pray for the dead and the victims. May the Lord convert the hearts of people who sow terror, violence and death and even the hearts of those who produce and traffic in weapons.” Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt later this month, April 28-29.
Palm Sunday, of course, remembers the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and the subsequent turn of the crowd against Him when He is brought to Pontius Pilate by the Jewish leaders to face trial, condemnation and crucifixion. The Gospel of the Sunday is the reading of the Passion, from the prayers of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane to His burial by Joseph of Arimathea.
It is claimed that Christians are the most persecuted religion in the world, and have suffered the most martyrs in recent decades. I can’t verify this, of course. There are a number of resources on the horrors of Christian persecution, including Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea, and The Global War on Christians: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution, by John L. Allen, Jr.
Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt, all over the Middle East, in China, Nigeria and Cuba, and anywhere else they face discrimination, persecution, and even death. Let us find out what we can do to help them (more on this later). Let us never forget that persecution is not new to Christians, and we ourselves are not immune.
We pray for the dead: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
We pray for the terrorists: May their hearts, O Lord, be turned to peace, justice and love. May the faith they profess inspire them to a true love of You and, as such, to a love for all people, made in Your image. Amen.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.