A funeral service has been held this afternoon for four Copts who lost their lives in a terrorist attack last evening, Sunday 20 October, as they left a church wedding ceremony in the Giza district of Warraq
At 2:00pm today, thousands of Copts converged on the church in Warraq to attend the funeral. As they waited for the hearses to arrive the congregation began singing hymns, including the poignant Lord have mercy and I need you, Lord of hosts.
Presiding over the ceremony were the bishops Anba Raphail, head of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Bishop-General of Services Anba Yu’annis, Anba Theodosius of Giza, and Anba Yuhanna of Imbaba and Warraq.
Anba Yuhanna thanked all the attending officials, politicians and public figures who had come to share the grief of the Copts, and everyone present. Anba Yu’annis gave a word about those who over the ages had their blood spilt for the sake of being Christian. “They are martyrs,” he said, “and their blood will be avenged by the Heavens.”
On Sunday evening two masked men on a motorcycle opened fire on a crowd of Copts who had gathered on the sidewalk in front of the church of the Holy Virgin and the Archangel Michael in the district of Warraq in the Giza region of Greater Cairo. The Copts were leaving a wedding that had just come to an end in the church and were preparing to go on their separate ways home. The usual lingering and chatting swelled the crowd, so that the gunfire resulted in four deaths and 18 wounded, several of them in critical conditions. Among the wounded were three Muslims who had been sitting at a nearby sidewalk café.
Before the crowd could come round from the shock, the gunmen had fled the scene. The church lies on the Nile Corneiche, a busy thoroughfare that links two main roads but had light traffic at this time of the evening.
One woman, Camelia Hilmy Attiya, 55, fell directly dead, shot in the heart. The other three who lost their lives died either before or minutes after reaching hospital, among them Samir Fahmy Azer, 45. The 12-year-old Mariam Nabil Fahmy died on her way to the hospital, her body riddled with 10 bullets; and the 7-year-old Mariam Ashraf Messeiha could not survive the bullets in her little chest and breathed her last a few minutes after she had been moved to hospital.
An eyewitness told Watani of the heartbreaking scene of the young man Mukhliss Riyadh who went back to the church later in the evening carrying a plastic bag that included the blood-drenched clothes of Mariam Fahmy whom he had carried on his shoulders and rushed to the hospital. “She didn’t survive,” he lamented, “How could her little body sustain all 10 bullets?” He drew out the pair of boots she had been wearing and, sure enough, one of the boots had been penetrated by three bullets.
Card to pressure the administration
The police and prosecution hastened to the scene, and investigations are ongoing.
Father Dawoud Ibrahim of the Warraq church said the attack was a horrible terrorist crime that targeted no one in particular, but was intended to terrorise the Copts and the entire community. He deplored the fact that churches are poorly guarded and demanded adequate protection for churches, especially given that there are several dates and occasions that witness large crowds of Copts at church.
“Copts are being used as a card to pressure the administration and provoke a public sentiment of the inadequacy of the current regime,” Fr Yustus of the same church said. He also demanded higher security, especially in light of the church being on a route frequented by Muslim Brotherhood demonstration.
Amid the turmoil in the aftermath of the shooting, two sisters Mariam, 10, and Ireni Adel Kokab, 6, have been reported missing. Their parents toured the all the hospitals to which the victims had been moved but did not find any of them there. They reported the matter to the police but have got no response yet.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Egypt’s Copts have been targeted by the country’s Islamists who accuse the Church and Coptic community of having backed the overthrow of the Islamist President Muhammad Mursi last July.
Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi condemned the attack in a cabinet statement, calling it a “despicable criminal act”.
“Such terrible acts will not succeed in working a division between Egypt’s Muslims and Christians,” he said.
The Coptic Church issued a statement in which it condemned “this type of terrorist attacks which target civilian Egyptians who have every right to live in peace and security during this pivotal historical moment when Egypt is working for national solidarity.”
The Council of Egypt’s Churches, and the Catholic and Evangelical Churches in Egypt all issued messages of condolences to the Coptic Orthodox Church and congregation. Liberal political parties and groups, as well as rights groups and activists in Egypt also sent their condolences and condemned the attack.
21 October 2013
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