16 January 2011
In the wake of the New Year bombing at the Church of the Saints in Alexandria, which left 25 dead and 90 injured, the People’s Assembly (PA)—the lower house of Egypt’s Parliament—delegated a fact finding committee to the scene of the crime. The bombing had sparked angry demonstrations by Copts all over Egypt, who protested the long-standing discrimination against them and the failure of the authorities to protect them. The fact finding committee members visited the Church of the Saints and the injured in Alexandria hospitals, and met eyewitnesses and the priests of the church in question. The final report was submitted to the PA.
One recommendation disapproved
The PA approved most of the recommendations made by the committee. Mainly, the committee called for swift implementation of justice through catching the criminals and bringing them to trial. It also recommended that schools should educate youngsters on tolerance and respecting the ‘other’; and that the religious address of both Muslim and Christian clerics should be ameliorated to enhance tolerance.
The committee also called for a strong stand by the media to counter fanaticism and terrorism, urging respect of citizenship rights and other religions, and promoting a culture of equality and non-discrimination among all Egyptians.
Among the measures recommended by the committee was one which called for heightened security around churches, but it was disapproved by the PA on grounds that it included a tacit confession that current security was insufficient and inadequate.
For its part, the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) assigned another fact-finding committee to report on the bombing. The committee’s members included Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour, Ibtissam Habib, Nabil Hilmy, and Georgette Qellini.
Again, the committee recommended the reform of school curricula, the media, and religious address, and demanded that Parliament promptly passes the unified law for building places of worship.
Pope in Ohio
Last Sunday, Pope Shenouda III flew to the United States for a medical check-up more than two years after treatment for a broken thigh-bone. The Pope, who turns 88 in August, was admitted to a Cleveland, Ohio, hospital, to which he had repeatedly gone for back and kidney treatment in the recent years.
On the evening of Thursday 6 January and minutes into the new day of 7 January, Coptic churches marked sombre Christmas Eve Midnight Mass under tight security in the aftermath of the New Year bombing.
Pope Shenouda III presided over Holy Mass at the St Mark Cathedral in Abbasiya, Cairo, in which 12 archbishops and bishops participated. A large number of public figures—Muslims and Christians—attended, presenting their condolences for the New Year tragedy and confirming their sympathy with the Copts and the Church. The Pope thanked President Mubarak for his condolence through a telephone call that morning.
Before the Christmas Eve sermon, Pope Shenouda relayed his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the Alexandria bombing. He also commemorated the first anniversary of the death of the seven men—six Copts and one Muslim passerby—who died in a drive-by shooting on Christmas Eve 2010 at Nag Hammadi, Upper Egypt, as they left church following Midnight Mass.
In Nag Hammadi, Bishop of Nag Hammadi Anba Kyrillos held a commemorative Mass at St Badaba Monastery, west of Nag Hammadi, to mark the first anniversary of those who lost their lives at this time last year. He announced he would not be receiving any greetings for Christmas since, with a protracted trial in which no criminal has yet been indicted, the parish was still in mourning.
Several other archbishops and bishops in parishes all over Egypt adopted the same stance, in respect of the blood spilt in Alexandria on Christmas Eve.
For the second year in a row, Anba Dimitrius, Bishop of Mallawi in Upper Egypt, cancelled the Kom Maria celebrations, in mourning for the Nag Hammadi—and now Alexandria—victims.
Kom Maria, literally Maria’s heap, is a desert spot east of the village of Abu-Hinnis on the East bank of the Nile in Minya, Upper Egypt, where tradition has it that the Holy Family rested for a day while on its flight into Egypt in the first century. A celebration which today draws tourists from various parts of the world is held there twice a year, in January and July.