The blast took place as a Sunday Mass being held in the chapel was about to end.
CHR Comment: St. Mark’s is the religious center for Coptic Christians in Egypt and the seat of governance for Pope Tawadros II, the leading bishop. In other words, for the Copts, this would be like a bomb blast at the Vatican.
I have added below a follow-up article from the New York Times, which provides further background on persecution in Egypt.
Source: At least 25 killed in blast near Cairo cathedral
New York Times Article
(RNS) The plight of Christians in the Middle East is all but ignored, say their advocates.
CHR Comment: The article describes a Washington DC conference intent upon addressing the plight of Christians in the Middle East such as the Assyrian Christians and the Copts in Egypt. These minority religious groups are subject to persistent persecution in recent years. The conference also mentioned the suffering of the Yazidi people who practice a form of Zoroastrianism.
Source: Activists: West is ignoring genocide of Middle East religious minorities | Religion News Service
While Imam Mahmoud Gomaa, appointed to keep the peace between two faiths, blames journalists for exaggerating the problem, a local bishop says, “We are at a breaking point.”
CHR Comment: The article describes the continued atmosphere of persecution in Egypt. Copts in America want to demonstrate about the situation but Copts in Egypt are afraid of reprisals. This illustrates the sense of intimidation they are experiencing. Muslim rule has at times presented an atmosphere of peace while having strict rules that prevent Christian communities from growth and freedom. (E. g., not allowing the building or repair of churches, conversions to Christianity, etc.)
Source: Egypt’s Christians Say They Are at a ‘Breaking Point’ – The New York Times
Attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt average about one a month over the past three years.
CHR Comment: 10% of the population is Coptic. The article describes how laws in Egypt interfere with Christians building churches and how government efforts to curb persecution are ineffective. Features of these rules and practices are similar to those used by Muslim leaders over the centuries to prevent the growth and spread of Christianity.
Source: Attacks on Christians in Egypt raise alarms
A mass wave of Christian girls and women are being kidnapped and raped by Muslim men in Upper Egypt, a persecution watchdog group has warned.
CHR Comment: The article details the experience of one girl while referring to reports of numerous other incidents. It also refers to the destruction of historic churches in Egypt. In 2015 Al-Our was the proposed site for a new church dedicated to recent Coptic martyrs. However, the proposed project brought violent protests from Muslims. See second link below.
I’ve added a third story below about Al-Our.
Source: Christian Girl Reveals Horrors of Muslim Mob in Egypt Kidnapping, Raping Women
A Muslim mob torched and looted the homes of 80 Christian families in the Al-Beida village in Egypt, looking to punish them for wanting to turn one of the buildings in the village into a church so they can worship.
CHR Comment: Rumor that a woman had converted from Islam to Christianity initiated the rioting that led to the destruction of property and to injury. The story points out that moderate Muslims intervened when the mob would have attacked Fr. Karas Naser, the priest of Holy Virgin and the Archangel Michael Coptic Church.
Source: Muslim Mob Torches 80 Christian Homes in Egypt as Punishment for Wanting to Build Church
An armed Muslim mob stripped an elderly Christian woman and paraded her naked on the streets amid rumors.
CHR Comment: The article illustrates relationship taboos in Egypt without indicating what exactly the laws of the nation are. The 70-year old woman in the story did not have an affair. The accusation was against her son, an Orthodox Coptic Christian, and a Muslim woman. The mob attacked a dozen homes and chanted slogans against Christians as infidels. A number of persons from the mob have been arrested.
Source: Muslim Mob in Egypt Attacks Christians, Parades Naked Woman – NBC News
Egypt’s Coptic Christians follow the Julian calendar in celebrating Christmas on January 7th of each year. For the second consecutive . . . .
CHR Comment: Early in 2015 Coptic Christians were martyred by ISIS militants. Religious tensions in Egypt and elsewhere around the Middle East remain high. Here is a positive example of how one government official in a predominantly Muslim country is attempting to ease tensions.
Source: Eastern Christmas and Egypt’s President | Ayman S. Ibrahim | First Things
In 2015, more than 50 attacks, in which almost 1,000 civilians were killed, were committed in the name of ISIL.
CHR Comment: The number of Christians martyred by ISIS in 2015 is not readily available. Among those mentioned on this map infographic would be the 21 Coptic Christians abducted this January in Libya. The Huffington Post story below gives a detailed account of some these men’s lives. The USA Today article includes another map as well as a point by point description of ISIS attacks. ISIS also targets non-Sunni Muslim groups, Yazidis, and anyone who stands in their way. Lord, have mercy on Your Church and all who face these terrorists.
Source: Mapping ISIL’s attacks in 2015 – Al Jazeera English
Book now! Egypt: faith after the pharaohs, at the British Museum. 29 October 2015 – 7 February 2016.
CHR Comment: The Center for Early African Christianity brought this British Museum exhibit to my attention, which describes the transition of Egypt from polytheism to monotheism, including the centuries when rulers were Christian. There remains a sizeable number of Christians in Egypt to this day, known as the Copts.
Source: British Museum – Faith after the pharaohs