Egyptian Christians were burying their dead on Monday after suicide attacks that killed at least 45 people at two Coptic Christian churches in two cities.
Dozens more were wounded in the Palm Sunday bombings at St. George’s church, north of Cairo, and St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria.
Palm Sunday is a holy day for Christians to celebrate Christ’s arrival at the city of Jerusalem, a week before Easter.
The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for the bombings. Egypt’s government declared a state of emergency with fears of more violence.
The attacks came less than a week after Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi met at the White House with U.S. President Donald Trump to discuss fighting extremism.
The White House said President Trump spoke with President el-Sissi on Sunday "to convey his deepest condolences to Egypt and to the families who lost loved ones in the heinous terrorist attacks against Christian churches on Palm Sunday."
The statement adds: "The president also expressed his confidence in President el-Sissi's commitment to protect Christians and all Egyptians."
Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 92 million people. It is the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.
Bishop Ahba Suriel is a Coptic Christian leader in Melbourne, Australia. He told VOA more needs to be done to protect Christians in the Middle East because, he says, they are targets of Islamic State.
“..it’s very clear that there is a type of ethnic cleansing by ISIS targeted towards Christians of the Middle East with a particular emphasis on the Copts of Egypt.”
The bombings happened weeks before Pope Francis plans a visit to Egypt. The pope said:
"I pray for the dead and the injured, and I am close in spirit to their families and the entire community. May the Lord convert the hearts of people who sow terror, violence and death, and even the hearts of those who produce and traffic in weapons."
Egypt’s Christians have been a frequent target of terrorist attacks, including arsons, assaults and bombings. The AP reports that a church bombing last December killed 30 people in Cairo, and a series of killings in the Sinai Peninsula have caused hundreds to leave for safer areas.
I’m Anne Ball.
Victor Beattie and Zlatica Hoke reported on this story for VOA. Anne Ball adapted the story for Learning English with additional information from the Associated Press (AP). Hai Do was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and visit us on our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
condolence – n. a feeling or expression of sympathy and sadness especially when someone is suffering because of a death
heinous – adj. very bad or evil
ethnic cleansing - n. the practice of removing or killing people who belong to an ethnic group that is different from the ruling group in a country or region
convert – v. to change something into a different form so it can be used a different way