Bombing at Cairo church kills women and children

What happened?

Twenty-five people were killed at a church in Cairo when a suicide bomber blew himself up during a Sunday liturgy. The attack took place at a chapel adjacent to St Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church. It was one of the deadliest ever attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority, which makes up about 10 per cent of the population. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared three days of national mourning. Three men and a woman were arrested in connection with the attack.

What commentators are saying

John Allen, writing for cruxnow.com, said that the symbolism behind the attack could not be overstated, given that it was “akin to a bomb going off at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome”. Allen also observed that the attack might mark a turning point in relations between Christians and the al-Sisi government. Christians have previously been supportive of the former army general who deposed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi. But recently, Allen wrote, “82 leading Coptic intellectuals signed a letter protesting the Church’s support for al-Sisi and insisting that alleged improvements in conditions for Christians are more cosmetic than real, and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recently found that Egypt has taken ‘one step forward and two steps back’”.

The New York Times pointed out that the president’s support had been further battered by “a gnawing economic crisis that has caused widespread discontent, with soaring inflation and shortages of staple food products like sugar”. But the situation in Egypt is not merely about economics but also the meaning of tolerance, said Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith at CatholicHerald.co.uk. “For toleration to emerge, for people to live in peace with each other, there need to be changes in what they believe.”

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