Last week a suicide bomber attacked an Egyptian church and killed 22 people and injured 96 others. The bombing is said to be the worst attack on Christians in Egypt in at least a decade. The New York Times reports on the immediate aftermath:
By Saturday evening, patches of blood were visible high on the front walls of the church, which was pockmarked with holes. Across the street, a mosque was also stained with blood.
“There were bodies on the streets,” said Sherif Ibrahim, who saw the blast’s aftermath. “Hands, legs, stomachs. Girls, women and men.”
The attack was horrific, and Muslim extremists are the suspected culprits. The victims were Coptic Christians celebrating a New Year’s Mass. Coptic Christians comprise about 10 percent of the 80 million people living in Egypt. According to Operation World, many Copts are very nominal. Nevertheless, a “biblically based renewal movement” has been gaining momentum in the Coptic Church since 1930. This movement “strongly emphasizes Bible study and personal faith, and many are fervent witnesses for the Lord” (Operation World, p. 315).
How can you pray? Here’s what Operation World (pp. 315-16) says about praying for the persecuted church in Egypt:
Persecution of Christians has steadily intensified in the last 20 years. Harassment, discrimination on individual and communal levels and financial incentives for Christians to adopt Islam are all used to break the morale of Christians. Some areas, such as Upper Egypt, face more intese pressure than others. In most cases, the attacks that occur are carried out by vigilante Islamist groups – but often with the tacit acceptance of local security forces. Identity cards stating religion can be a huge challenge for believers from Muslim backgrounds, who tend to be on the receiving end of persecution more frequently than Copts. Pray for:
a) Christians to stand firm in their faith and live exemplary lives before their oppressors and in the face of police mistreatment. A number have died or suffered incarceration and torture in prison, usually on false charges.
b) Christians who waver. Estimates indicate that several thousand annually are coerced or enticed to become Muslim. Significant numbers of Christian girls fall in love with or are enticed by Muslim males, often leading to the girl eventually converting to Islam. In a growing minority of cases, violent abduction and forced conversion occurs. Pray for strength for all to keep the faith through every circumstance.
c) Government response to persecution and violence. Government forces usually respond to attacks too late or not at all. This lack of decisive action by police emboldens Islamist, and the violence enables the state to enact draconian security measures. Pray for a government tha will act with fairness to protect all of its communities from violence.