‘We Trust God and We Go’: A Year After Twin Suicide Bombings, Egyptian Churches Growing Rapidly

After church bombings, pastors see double the number of people at services.

An Egyptian Coptic Christian stands next to a cross on Palm Sunday at the monastery of Samaan al-Kharraz in the capital Cairo, on April 1, 2018, about a year after the twin suicide bombings of Egyptian Christian churches.

By Nancy Flory Published on April 10, 2018

It’s been one year since the twin Palm Sunday suicide bombings in Egypt. In spite of the attacks, people from all backgrounds are coming to Christ — something mainstream media doesn’t report.

Suicide bombers hit St. George’s Church in Tanta and St. Mark’s Coptic Church in Alexandria on Palm Sunday last year. Tanta, one of Egypt’s largest cities, sits about 60 miles north of Cairo in the Nile delta. The ancient city of Alexandria sits on the Mediterranean. The home church of the head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, St. Mark’s is an big target for Islamic terrorists.

The Alexandria attack killed 18, reportedly killing more Muslims than Copts. Of the 18 killed in Alexandria, eight were Coptic and ten Muslim, six passers-by and four policemen. The youngest victim was just 2.

ISIS claimed responsibility. In a statement after the murders, the group declared, “The Crusaders and their apostate followers must be aware that the bill between us and them is very large, and they will be paying it like a river of blood from their sons, if God is willing.” 

The Coptic Orthodox Church

According to Coptic teaching, the Coptic Orthodox Church began when the gospel-writer Mark brought the Gospel to Egypt 12 years after Jesus’s ascension. (The word “Copt” is derived from the Greek word for Egyptian.) The Church there grew quickly to become Egypt’s dominant faith, which it remained well into the Arabic period.

The Copts gave the Church some of her greatest early theologians, especially Athanasius. He fought down the Arian heresy and gave us the definition of Jesus as homoousios, meaning He was fully God.

Christian monasticism began there in the 3rd and 4th centuries. The most famous was Anthony. The Copts split from the rest of the Church in the 5th century over a technical theological question about Jesus’s two natures. They argue they weren’t teaching the heresy they were accused of teaching. In the past decades much of rift has been healed.

Even after Muslims conquered Egypt in the 7th century, the Coptic Church remained for centuries the largest religious group in the country. Over the centuries, the Muslim government subjected them to increasing harassment and persecution. Egypt became a Muslim majority country in the 12th century, and the treatment of the Copts got worse.

It got a little better in the 19th century as Egyptian society liberalized. And then better again after the 1919 revolution. But the Copts have continued to face government opposition and attacks from extremist Muslim groups.

Today, Copts make up about ten per cent of Egypt’s population of 92 million. The Church is governed by a pope, based in Alexandria. Attacks on the church have increased in the last decade or so, especially since the military overthrew President Mohammed Morsi.

— David Mills

‘Every Day We Trust God and We Go’

Forty-five people died and 126 people were injured. The Rev. Dr. Andrea Stephanous is the president of the Protestant Community of Egypt. Stephanous spoke to the evangelistic site Premier about trusting God in the middle of uncertainty. “When security knows I’m going to a certain church there will be double security, but you never know. You can expect at any moment that someone will come with a bomb and create a massacre. So every day we trust God and we go.”

Christians are not afraid. They know that even more people will come to Christ as a result. “The good news is we never fear bombs or death,” said Stephanous. “As long as we’re committed to Jesus, every time they bomb the church we have double the number of people in church.”

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Fr. Kyrillos Fathy from St. Mark’s Coptic Church said the suicide bomber there detonated his bomb when he was questioned by security. The bomber had tried to avoid the metal detectors. “Even though the incident was very terrible and it left us emotionally vulnerable, we believe in the Bible and in the verse in the Bible that says everything works out for the good.” He added that the next service after the attack was full of parishioners.

Asked how he and his people would cope this year with the sorrows of Good Friday, Fr. Fathy replied, “With prayer. We have nothing else but the resort to prayer.”

‘We Wish Them Life’

Even Christian broadcaster SAT 7 has noticed a difference in the number of audience members. Its audience has increased by 76 percent over the past five years. They broadcast in Arabic, Turkish and Farsi. Albert Falzi, Egypt’s director for SAT 7, told Premier that they “want to share the message of Christ with everyone.”

The programs are important, although SAT 7 receives harsh criticism from non-Christians. “Even if they wish us death,” Falzi said, “we wish them life.”

Rev. Dr. Sameh Hanna, associate pastor at the Evangelical Church in Cairo said the West doesn’t get the whole story. “The mood is very, very good amongst Christians who are living in Egypt. Not because the situation is good or bad — that is not the reason.”

He explained: “We have two kinds of news — earthly news, which is very ugly, very discouraging and I think in the West, you get only the earthly news — a bombing here or there. But there is heavenly news. We know what is going on spiritually. We see things that not everybody is seeing. We see things you are not hearing. We see the multitude coming to the knowledge of Christ from every background so this brings joy to us.”

Mary Edwar, the widow of one of the victims of the Alexandria attack, Kareem Ghattas, said she still felt anger about the murder of her husband. But “God chose him to be a martyr, which was a great honor.”

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  • Charles Burge

    Thanks for reporting on this. I’ve been intrigued by some of the recent reports coming out of both Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It seems as though God is moving in small but consequential ways there. It would be sweetly ironic if the barbarism of ISIS serves to drive moderate Muslims into the arms of Jesus.

  • GPS Daddy

    Men have never been able to stop the spread of Christianity. It will not be stopped now.

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