Coptic Orthodox in Al Minya, Egypt celebrate Holy Friday over ashes. By Dr. Ashraf Ramelah

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As the Orthodox in Egypt and around the world began their holy week last week on Sunday, April 21, Christians around the world mourned the Sri Lanka church bombing where more than three hundred Catholic Christians were killed celebrating Easter. For Copts, the explosion of bombs inside the three Sri Lanka churches brought to memory the explosion of their Two Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt on New Year’s Eve 2011, as well as the more recent attacks on The Saint George Church in Tanta and The Saint Mena Coptic Church in Alexandria on Palm Sunday 2017.

Copts in Egypt did not escape violence in this holy season

Before the holy week ended last week in the Province of Al Minya, Egypt, Copts became victims once again of a church burning on the Orthodox Good Friday (April 26). Some time back, Islamic authorities shut down the brick-and-mortar church by bolting its doors. Recently, authorities gave permission to Christians to erect a tent in the Saint George Church yard to celebrate the holy week of Easter. In the early morning hours prior to the arrival of parishioners and clergy, two young Muslim men set fire to the tent. 

As in many similar cases around the world the fire department arrived late, but in this case, there was nothing left to rescue. The massive tent and its furnishings burned to the ground. The local bishop and congregation were not thwarted however. They came to the charred remains and celebrated the Crucifixion of Christ under the open sky atop the ashes of their burnt tent, the smell of fire in the air.

Two Muslim men caught in the act remain under arrest. For Egypt, it is routine jihad.

Frequent threats against Christians may have been addressed by President Trump two weeks earlier in his meeting with Egypt’s President Al Sisi. However, in the press conference following their meeting President Trump ignored the war of terror against Christians inside Egypt to stress his alliance and praise for the president of Egypt. Trump needs him as a vital partner in the War on Terror -- the strategic battle against Islamic terrorism within the region.

Only time will tell if any conditions were given Al Sisi in their private meeting of April 19. After all, Al Sisi hopes as well to make “a quantum leap in the strategic relationship between Egypt and the United States,” stating this clearly before the press. For this very reason, the moment was ripe to seek a serious pledge from Al Sisi to protect Christians and work toward equality and religious freedom. The question remains, did Trump forsake this moment in his zeal for the War on Terror? Time will tell.

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