Middle East

Egypt Copts: Christmas in wake of bombing

Egyptian Copts reflect on celebrating Christmas in the wake of an attack on a a church in Alexandra that killed 23 people.

YOUSRY ZAGHLOUL MATT, ALEXANDRIA

I do not normally go to church much, perhaps once every two or three years, but my wife and child were at Saints' Church on the night of the attack. From my house I saw the huge fire and ran to find my family. They were okay but I saw all the carnage and every day since I have cried.

Our response is mixed. I have a lot of Muslim friends who were very nice but we also remember this is not the first attack. Four years ago a Muslim with a big knife broke into the church here and since then the situation has been bad.

Usually tensions are just on a low heat, but when small things happen it gets higher. Now though people are not sleeping because they are so worried. We didn't ever expect there would be an attack like this. We do not feel safe because the government does not do all it can to protect us. There is not enough security around the churches.

MINA SAMI, PHARMACIST, CAIRO

It's a very sad Christmas, many people will wear black at tonight's church services. Since the attack many of us changed the rules of our normal fasting which means missing out certain foods for 43 days before Christmas. Instead we have stopped eating from midnight to 1500 each day. We have had prayers every night.

We also remember what happened last Christmas when Copts were killed in Naga Hamady. The trial from that has become so delayed and politicised. We feel there is no justice when attacks happen. There were also protests when we were stopped from building a church in Umraniya, when 150 people were arrested. Muslims have the right to build mosques everywhere but we need special permission just to repair the door of a church.

I don't think the government wants to give rights to the Christians and everyone is fed up and wants to speak out. More Copts want to leave Egypt. I am a pharmacist and I have been trying to emigrate to America or Canada. I think the future in Egypt is dark.

COPTIC WOMAN, US RESIDENT VISITING CAIRO

My reaction when I heard what happened in Alexandria was utter disbelief and disgust. I have family who live nearby and my old nanny who is Muslim lives on a street nearby. She is devastated. Some of my best friends are also Muslim and have offered to come with me to church for Christmas.

I don't think this will affect relations between the two religions at all. If anything changes, then the people behind this crime will have accomplished what they set out to do and they shouldn't get away with it.

We're all a bit downcast about Christmas but we feel it should go on the way it always does. I came back from the United States, where I've lived for 25 years, to be with my mother for the holiday. I am a bit worried about going to church later but being a fatalistic Middle Easterner, I say only God decides when my time is up, and when it is up, it's up.

ADEL DAWOUD, HARDWARE SHOP OWNER, CAIRO

I think it's terrible what happened on the first day of the new year. Here in Egypt, I have Christian and Muslim friends. In my neighbourhood we all go back a long way. The problem is that there are some extremists who don't know about true religious beliefs. They misinterpret their holy books.

We believe in God, all of us. Copts are religious people and they will continue to go to church. If something happens we see it as from God.

I have seen the police increase protection around the churches and on the streets so they are taking the threats seriously. We hope they will do this all the time.

I am worried about the younger generation because there are more problems between Christians and Muslims, but in future, I think the situation will be better. For example when it comes to rules on building churches and rights in the workplace. This attack has changed the minds of Muslims and our government about many things.

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