This is terrible, and is an act of religious persecution in the Middle East. This has Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate written all over it. The murder of innocent Coptic Christians is sickening and gruesome.
Terrorists ambushed a Coptic church bus trip on Friday near Minya in Upper Egypt, killing at least 29 and injuring 23, including many children.
Egypt’s interior ministry reported that three vehicles of 8 to 10 gunmen dressed in military uniforms opened fire on the Christian convoy, which was on its way to the fourth-century St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Samalout, 140 miles south of Cairo.
Survivors of the bus attack reported that the terrorists attempted to force them to say the shahada, the Islamic creed. Some did so, but most did not. Pope Francis, who visited Egypt in late April, tweeted that they did not renounce their faith.
Among the victims was US citizen Muhsin Marcos from Tinley Park, Illinois, and seven of his family members.
“They asked them to switch their religion from Christian to Muslim,” his relative Gerges told Chicago’s ABC affiliate in an exclusive interview. “They said we’re not going to leave the Christianity.”
“I am grieving. It is sad and shocking,” said Bishop Thomas of the Coptic Orthodox diocese of Qusia, 75 miles from the monastery.
What is Coptic Christianity? Coptic means Egyption. So the Christians living in Egypt identify as Coptic Christians. They make up around 10 percent of the countries 92 million population. The past decades the Coptic Christians have become targets of the Islamic extremists.
Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, also condemned the attacks and offered prayers of healing for the injured.
“Such cowardly acts will not affect the firmness of the country, nor the determination of Egyptians to rid the nation of terrorism,” he said. “Targeting innocents, it seeks to spread fear and threaten the peace of the nation.”
Thousands of Copts gathered for funeral prayers in Deir al-Jarnous, a village near Minya where seven were buried. It developed into an angry protest march.
“We will avenge them or die like them,” Reuters reported the group chanted.
“God will avenge us,” one mourner told Reuters. “We will not do anything violent because we are Christians and love is in our hearts. It is enough that they will go to hell.”
As an example, Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom issued a statement to the terrorists.
“You are loved. The violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent and detestable, but YOU are loved,” he wrote. “You are loved by me and millions like me because I, and we, believe in transformation.”
Even so, the incident will likely prompt further fear in the Coptic community.
“People will think more carefully about security and safety, [or] going to retreats, conferences, or to visit monasteries,” said Bishop Thomas, who urged a response of love, justice, and avoidance of fear. “But people will think, ‘What’s next? Who’s next? Maybe it will be me.’ You never know.”
ISIS has a record of purposely targeting Coptic Christians in this horrific fashion. Calling Christians their “favorite prey” and that they are infidels who should be subject to murder.