STANDING WITH CHRISTIANS AFTER CAIRO BOMBING
SAT-7 viewers were shocked and some directly affected by the bomb blast that claimed the lives of 25 people in a church adjacent to Cairo’s main Coptic Cathedral on Sunday morning (11 December 2016).
This latest attack on Egypt’s Christian community overshadowed even the 2011 bombing of a church in Alexandria in its number of victims. Most of those killed and the over 40 injured were women and children in a section of St Peter and St Paul’s church reserved for women.
SPECIAL SUPPORTIVE PROGRAMS
SAT-7 has an audience of 5.5 million in Egypt and produced special programs to offer support and comfort them in their grief. Within an hour of the tragedy, a SAT-7 camera crew arrived at the scene to give a voice to shocked worshippers and relatives.
On Monday morning, the channel offered a live broadcast of a packed funeral service for the victims, conducted by the Coptic Orthodox Pope, Tawadros ll. The Coptic church leader said, “We are in so much pain over the evil that surrendered all the humanity and feelings that God entrusted in man.”
In the evening one of Egypt’s best-known preachers, Dr Maher Samuel, offered words of comfort from the Bible at a live service from Cairo’s Brethren meeting. A special edition of SAT-7’s Bridges current affairs show then reported on the day’s events and interviewed church leaders and other commentators on the events and how Egypt can address the causes of sectarianism and terrorism.
Bridges Producer and SAT-7 Arabic Programming Director, George Makeen, explained how his fellow Egyptians are feeling in the wake of the atrocity:
“People are extremely sad. They feel the insecurity and grief. There is also a lot of anger among those who have been directly affected. They ask why they are not being better protected; they feel their lives do not matter. They wonder how a 20-kilogram bag of explosives could be taken inside a church without being noticed.”
Although Coptic Christians have often taken comfort that their relatives died as martyrs, Makeen feels they need to be free to express their grief and shock.
“They should be allowed time to express their feelings. To comfort them you need to allow them to be human,” Makeen said.
EGYPTIAN SOCIETY THREATENED BY TERRORISM
His Holiness Pope Tawadros stressed that it is not only Christians but the whole of Egyptian society that is threatened by terrorism. Makeen agreed:
“Six soldiers were killed in Cairo over the weekend; two days before that, there was another attack in the Coptic village of Sohag, Upper Egypt; two weeks ago, terrorists attacked and killed a Christian.”
CHRISTIANS FEEL VULNERABLE
However, Christians often feel more vulnerable than others and that not enough action is taken to bring to account those who attack them to account.
“We Christians feel more threatened,” he explained. He said those who planned the bombing next to Cairo’s main Coptic Cathedral chose a soft target that would allow them “to do something big that would get noticed. In this respect, Christians are paying the price for the conflict between the government and the extremists.”
Makeen went on to identify what he believes is the root of such sectarian violence. “These attacks will continue,” he said, “unless we change the education system. Otherwise the racism (sectarianism) against minorities – Christians, Shia and others – will go on. In public schools, for example, 2,000 years of Coptic history is not mentioned. Christian students have to leave the classroom during religious lessons to go to their class.” He sees this as a form of exclusion that immediately identifies and stigmatises the Christians and is a barrier to understanding between the communities. “No one suggests the Christian students should explain their faith so their peers can understand it; they are excluded.”