Terrorists strike as Egyptian churches brace for violence. Many spared as bomb fails to go off. Release calls for prayer for Egypt's Christians.

Release International
Release International

The death toll in an attempted suicide bomb attack on a church in Egypt last Friday has now reached nine, according to Egyptian sources. Many more worshippers could have been killed in the attack on Saint Menas Church, south of Cairo, had the suicide bomber succeeded in detonating his explosive vest.

The terrorists struck ahead of the official Coptic Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7. The attack comes amid heightened security as churches in Egypt brace themselves for violence.

Two terrorists tried to break through the security barriers at the church in Helwan on Friday morning. One militant was killed in an exchange of fire with security forces, according to Egyptian media. Reports say he was carrying a machine gun with 150 rounds and an explosive device. Another militant got away on a motorbike, but according to reports was later captured.

Nine people died in the shootout and five were injured. The dead include a Muslim and two Christians at an electrical appliance shop in the neighbourhood. The dead have been named as Romany and Atef Shaker, the sons of the owner,

President Al-Sisi has called for heightened security and for Muslims to join Christians in their religious celebrations in a show of unity against terrorism. According to Egyptian media, police have stepped up security and closed every church in the Helwan suburb.

Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world, says Egyptian Christians have been preparing themselves for possible violence around the New Year and Coptic Christmas, which is celebrated in January.

Islamic militants have attacked churches in the past at this time of year, as they continue their campaign against the country's Christian minority. According to the BBC, more than 100 Christians have been killed in Egypt over the past year, mainly by members of Islamic State. Egypt has the largest remaining Christian community in the Middle East.

'Release International is devastated by this terrible news of more Christians martyred in Egypt,' says Release spokesperson Laura Hayes. 'Release recently returned from Cairo, where I accompanied a group of volunteers to support ministry on the ground.

'The continued violence against our brothers and sisters in Christ is appalling and deeply sad. We call on friends and supporters in the UK church to pray for the families of those bereaved at this distressing time.

'We also pray for those who perpetrated these terrible crimes and ask God to open their hearts and minds to the love and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.'

Christians in Egypt have asked for prayer:

For God's comfort for those who lost loved ones and for the full recovery of the injured.
For comfort and encouragement for the wider Christian community.
For God's protection over his church in Egypt and over other targets of terrorist attacks.
That the perpetrators of these violent attacks and those behind them will be brought to justice. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.