With hundreds of Christians murdered already by Islamist extremists, the churches of Egypt are closing down their special summer activities because of new terror threats.
The closures are expected to last three weeks.
In a statement on its website, the Coptic Orthodox Church UK said: ‘As a result of direct advice from Egyptian Security Services, Christian denominations have issued directives cancelling conferences and trips throughout July as a precautionary measure.’
Since December 2016 there has been a renewed spate of targeted attacks on, and murders of Egyptian Christians, with a reported 117 Coptic Orthodox Christians murdered across the country in that period.
This campaign began with the bombing of St Peter’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo in December 2016, and followed by Palm Sunday church bombings in Tanta and Alexandria, an attack on pilgrims visiting a monastery in Minya, and targeted attacks on individuals across Egypt.
Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Church in the UK, said: ‘Having communicated with colleagues in Cairo, it is obvious that the current campaign of terror against Christians is escalating rapidly. These measures have come after our community has experienced brutal attacks against innocent women, men and children across Egypt, and we pray will help to safeguard against future atrocities.
‘This unfortunate step comes at a time when children, young people and families will be deprived of the conferences and trips that they so look forward to over the summer period and have grown accustomed to over decades. Saying that however, it is of course more important, while recognising their huge disappointment, to do our best to ensure their safety.’
Despite these measures, the ongoing liturgical and pastoral life of the Church will be maintained as she continues to provide daily support for her children.
Angaelos added: ‘Here in the United Kingdom, and around the world, we are praying peace and safety for all the people of Egypt at this increasingly challenging time. We also pray that the orchestrators and perpetrators of this deadly wave are rightly brought to justice, and reconciled with their intended God-given humane and merciful nature.’
Between December and February 2017, 40 Christians were killed in total in the bombing of St Peter’s Coptic Church in Cairo, and the targeting of individuals in Cairo and Sinai. In April this year, 43 Christians were killed in Tanta and Alexandria church bombings. In May, the bus attack in Minya left 28 dead for refusing to recant their Christian faith. And this month so far, six Christian individuals have been murdered in their own homes.
Dr Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, told World Watch Monitor: ‘I asked all our churches and conference centres to cancel their trips and events for the next three weeks. There is news they could be targeted by radicals.’
Other churches are also temporarily shutting down summer activities.
The Protestant Church said in a statement: ‘Warm greetings in the name of Jesus. In light of recent developments, please stop all church trips and conferences [for] the next three weeks of July 2017. This is a serious matter. Any trip or conference [that continues] will be the personal responsibility of the organiser.’
Father Boules Halim, of the Coptic Orthodox Church, also told World Watch Monitor his denomination had issued similar instructions.
Further instructions will be given after the three-week deadline passes.
Many Christian organisations run retreats, family days out and other events for their local communities in the holidays.
One Coptic Orthodox bishop, however, is going to keep his retreat centre in Amfora running, but only for individual and not group retreats.