A note about the EASTERN EASTER

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Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin – No. 374 – Wed 19 Apr 2006

A note about the EASTERN EASTER:

Eastern Christians have a long history of intense suffering and
trauma, borne through either 20th Century Communism, or Islamic
jihad and imperialism marked by massacres, persecution and
subjugation over many centuries. The Copts are Egypt’s
indigenous, predominantly Christian people. Whilst not actually
part of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Egypt’s Coptic Christians
celebrate Easter according to the Eastern tradition over 21 and
23 April.

WE PRAY FOR the Eastern rite churches celebrating Easter this
weekend; may our living Saviour encompass them with his love and
powerfully anoint them afresh with his Holy Spirit to bring
healing and renewal; and may those who live in the Middle East,
in the midst of resurgent Islam, seek and find their security
and hope in God our sanctuary (Isaiah 8:14).


One of the consequences of the recent resurgence of Islamic zeal
and Islamic political activism in Egypt has been the corresponding
escalation in Islamic intolerance and violence against the Church.
On Friday 14 April – Good Friday for Roman Catholic and Protestant
Christians – 17 worshippers in three churches in Alexandria were
stabbed in a co-ordinated Islamic militant assault. Police
initially reported the arrest of three men in four near-
simultaneous church attacks. One culprit was said to have attacked
two churches, one attacked a third church, and the other was
arrested during a foiled attempt on a fourth church. All were
reportedly armed with two knives. An employee of the Mar Girgis
church said, ‘The attacker stormed the church shouting “There is no
God but Allah” and “Allah is the greatest” before stabbing the
worshippers.’ Nushi Atta Girgis (78), stabbed at the Quidissin
church, died in hospital.

However, the police later changed their report to say that only one
‘mentally unstable’ man had been arrested, and he was the sole
assailant. (They have not explained how a sole assailant could
attack four churches virtually simultaneously, especially as one is
about 45 minutes away from the others.) The Interior Ministry
claimed the ‘mentally unstable’ attacker was simply taking revenge
for the Danish cartoons, i.e., this is not really a domestic
Egyptian issue – just a mad man responding to Western provocation.
However most Copts believe the church attacks were carried out by
Islamic militants as part of a domestic Islamist plot against
Egypt’s Christians.

On Saturday 15 April some 3000 Christians attended the funeral
procession for Nushi Atta Girgis. The mourners then protested
outside the church, calling for more security and government
action. Hostile Muslims retaliated and stormed the police guard.
Violent clashes erupted and a Muslim man was killed. Fifty Muslims
and five Copts were arrested. Sectarian clashes continued through
Sunday 16 April and many shops and cars were torched. Police
eventually used tear gas to disperse the emotional Muslim and
Christian crowds numbering in the thousands.

Also on Sunday 16 April, a knife-bearing Islamic militant tried to
enter a church in Cairo where Coptic Christians were celebrating
Palm Sunday. He was arrested at the door and detained for four days
for questioning on suspicion of intending to commit a crime. While
international media reported, ‘A Muslim man wielding a knife in a
Cairo church has been detained by police, just days after a man was
killed in a similar incident’ (Aljazeera, 17 April), official
Egyptian news media reported that the arrested man, whose religion
was not named, was merely a potential thief, even unarmed. Many
analysts believe the government’s refusal to confront the problem
of escalating Islamic intolerance is fueling a potential crisis.


* move President Hosni Mubarak and the Egyptian government to
tackle Islamic intolerance so that religious liberty issues may
be openly debated, providing a theatre for change and for the
gospel of Jesus Christ.

* heal the wounds and comfort the pain of the individuals and
congregations terrorised in the 14 April knife attacks, calming
their fear, renewing their faith, and empowering their witness
with restored confidence.

* do a mysterious and mighty work in Egypt, making himself known by
turning hearts so they reject oppression and seek and find
salvation in him. (This is promised in Isaiah 19:16-25,
culminating in Assyria, Israel and Egypt being reconciled as
worshippers together of the Lord, a promise with both local and
global applications. ‘In that day,’ the Lord will say, ‘Blessed
be Egypt my people…’)




On Friday 14 April, 17 worshippers were wounded when three churches
in Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria were attacked by knife-
wielding Islamic militants. One assailant attacked two churches,
another attacked a third church, and police foiled a fourth attack.
One believer, Nushi Atta Girgis (78), later died in hospital. The
next day, mourners at his funeral protested outside the church for
more government action and security. Muslims retaliated, stormed
the police guard, and clashes ensued. A Muslim man was killed. On
Sunday 16 April, police had to use tear gas to disperse thousands
of emotional Muslims and Christians engaged in sectarian clashes.
In Cairo on Sunday 16 April, a knife-bearing Muslim was arrested
trying to enter a church during the Coptic Palm Sunday service. The
government is denying sectarian tensions and trying to cover them
up. Please pray for the Church in Egypt.

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.