Thursday,18 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1353, (20 - 26 July 2017)
Thursday,18 April, 2019
Issue 1353, (20 - 26 July 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Precautionary measures

In the face of security warnings of increased threats against Copts the Church has halted summer activities, writes Michael Adel


Precautionary measures
Precautionary measures

In compliance with Interior Ministry advice the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical churches have frozen all activities that necessitate travel between eparchies. Security measures have also been tightened at churches across Egypt in response to terrorist threats against Copts.

Security agencies are coordinating to protect Christian foundations in remote areas, including Wadi Al-Natroun, the Eastern Desert and parts of Upper Egypt.

The freeze effectively puts on hold the moulid of Pope Shenouda or moulid of the White Monastery, and the moulid of Saint Karas the Anorchite, celebrated annually at the end of July. Sources expect the number of people joining such religious celebrations to fall dramatically. Celebrations of the birth of the Virgin Mary — the moulid Al-Sayeda Al-Aadra — held at the beginning of August at monasteries in Al-Mahrek and Darnaka in the governorate of Assiut will also be affected.

A Church source told Al-Ahram Weekly that “the decision was made after coordination between security bodies and the Papal headquarters”. Until further notice the heads of the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Coptic churches have been asked to halt activities that require travel, especially to coastal areas such as Agami, home to the Mar Morqos Hermitage which is affiliated with the Youth Episcopate.  

The source said Church Spokesman Father Boulos Halim “contacted heads of churches and eparchies requesting them to halt church trips this month after security bodies warned of possible attacks”.

The Church has made its own security demands. They include “making mobile networks available in all monasteries and churches and installing lights on unpaved roads leading to monasteries which Copts walk on foot to reach the monasteries”. These unpaved roads, says the source, “witnessed attacks on Copts such as that on worshipers heading to the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Minya in May”.

Bishop Moussa of the Youth Community of the Coptic Orthodox Church has announced the postponement of 26 youth conventions until the security situation stabilises. 

Halim added “these recommendations were presented orally by Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, patriarch of the See of St Mark”. Tawadros ordered the cancellation of all trips during July but other Church sources expect the emergency will extend till at least September pending further security instructions.

“The Orthodox Church doesn’t interfere in the decisions taken by other churches,” said another source, refuting claims that Tawadros had issued instructions to Catholic or Evangelical churches. Father Hani Bakhoum, deputy patriarch of Egyptian Catholics, said the Catholic Church, headed by Father Ibrahim Ishak, “decided to cancel trips and conventions this month due to security concerns”.

Reverend Andrea Zaki, head of the Evangelical Church, released a statement saying “in light of recent developments church trips and conventions have been halted for the next three weeks.”

“This is a serious matter. Any trips made will be the personal responsibility of the travellers.”

Zaki said the warning applied to all Evangelical churches. He also requested “police units be stationed close to monasteries and security measures intensified at all entrances and exits of monasteries”.

“Security forces should coordinate with Evangelical eparchies and address their security concerns to safeguard historic churches and the roads leading to them”.

Churches in Beheira and Marsa Matrouh have distributed fliers warning against church activities that require large numbers of Copts to congregate in one place. In Beheira the Coptic Church warned against gathering in front of church gates and recommended maintaining access to churches through a single door guarded by security.

The Orthodox Church has announced alternative plans for young people affected by the travel warnings during their summer vacation. Churches in Old Cairo have announced that they will be receiving worshipers regularly and retreats at hermitages will still go ahead based on recommendations from priests.

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