Two Christian children are among 26 people murdered by Islamist gunmen in Egypt.
A further 25 people were injured in the attack on a bus full of Coptic Christians and an accompanying car near the St Samuel monastery in Minya.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, commenting on the attack, said: ‘Today we stand with all those who fear for their lives because of their faith. We stand with Pope Tawadros and all the Christians of Egypt, in prayer and solidarity.’
A statement released by Minya’s Governor confirmed nearly 30 people were killed. Eight of those who died have yet to be identified. Some of the injuries are serious and the death toll is expected to increase.
The two children are Marfy Hany Moussa, aged four, and Moreska Mina Samuel, aged two, according to Egyptian Streets news.
Eyewitnesses told Egyptian newspaper Youm7 that many gunmen were involved in the attack.
President of Egypt Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called an immediate emergency meeting, according to the state newsagency.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that gunmen opened fire surrounding the bus in three SUVs on the Western Desert road.
‘They were on their way to the Monastery of Anba Samuel the Confessor,’ said Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. ‘They were ambushed on their way to the monastery, while on an unpaved road leading to the monastery. The car was carrying workers in the monastery and the bus carrying visitors.’
The atrocity follows the attacks in April when two churches were attacked by suicide bombers, leading to 47 deaths. And last December, 29 people died in an attack on a Cairo church.
Egypt has about 10 million Christians in Egypt, roughly one in 10 per cent of the country’s population of 90 million.
Bishop Angaelos, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, told Christian Today: ‘I spoke to the Bishop of Minya on the phone. It’s terrible. It’s not unlike what happened in Manchester. It was an attack targeted on children and young people. It was a target on families going on a pilgrimage to a monastery. The gunmen boarded the bus, shot and killed them.
‘I think one gets to a stage where there is just very little to say. It is heartless, cruel, unimaginable. But it is an indication of where we are in the world.
‘Of course we grieve those who lost their lives. Of course their famijlies are going through immense pain. What is worse is that within our humanity there are those who think not only is this viable, it is a form of victory – to target poor children, families and elderly people travelling to pay homage at a monastery.’
Bishop Angaelos added: ‘We are thankful for the commmunity in Egypt, it is still faithful and bears all this with great courage. But they remain targets, whatever they do.’
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: ‘I am heartbroken by the news of another awful attack on men, women and children, murdered because of their faith in Jesus Christ. In this time of deep sorrow and pain, we commit to prayer those who have died, those who have been injured and those who have lost loved ones. We pray that all might know the presence of God in this dark time and draw closer to the Great Redeemer, who is Jesus Christ.
‘We pray for the people and nation of Egypt, for peace, and for a united rejection of the horrific actions of those who perpetrate terror.
‘I pray for HH Pope Tawadros II as he leads the Coptic Orthodox Church, for wisdom and courage, for unshaking faith, for steadfastness and for endurance. It was a privilege to welcome His Holiness to Lambeth Palace earlier this month and to pray with him at Westminster Abbey. During this visit His Holiness presented me with an icon of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt to escape King Herod’s persecution. Today we stand with all those who fear for their lives because of their faith. We stand with Pope Tawadros and all the Christians of Egypt, in prayer and solidarity.’