Christians in Egypt are accusing the government of failing to protect them after Islamic State gunmen attacked a group travelling by bus to a monastery, killing 29 and injuring a further 20.
Relatives of some of those killed said the deadly shooting on 26 May, which is the fourth attack on Christians in Egypt since December, undermines the state of emergency declared in the country in the wake of a double suicide bomb attack in April.
Egypt’s government previously vowed to boost security and protect its Christian citizens after suicide bombers struck two churches on Palm Sunday, leaving at least 45 dead. But many of Egypt’s Christians say that the nationwide state of emergency imposed on 10 April has done little to protect them.
“It’s all talk and no action,” said Mina Adel, a friend of 25-year-old Guirguis Mahrous who was killed in the bus attack.
“Even this state of emergency: they announced it to calm public opinion, but it’s not really helping,” he told the Guardian. “Even the priests, bishops and parliament members don’t have the same respect from people any more – now no one takes their ‘soothing’ words seriously.”
According to some reports, last Friday’s (26 May) massacre of the 29 Coptic Christians who were on their way to a monastery in Minya occurred after masked gunmen marched them off the bus one by one and asked them to deny their faith in Jesus Christ.
Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack.
Pope Francis led a prayer on Sunday for the victims of the bus attack, saying that they were killed in “another act of ferocious violence” after having refused to renounce their Christian faith.
Speaking to thousands gathered in St Peter’s Square, the pontiff said: ‘May the Lord welcome these courageous witnesses, these martyrs, in his peace and convert the hearts of the violent ones.’
The pope recently met Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi during a trip to Egypt intended to promote interfaith dialogue.
The shooting is the latest in a string of attacks, claimed by Islamic State, targeting Egypt’s Coptic Christians. At least 100 Copts have been killed since December, and many hundreds more have been injured. In February, Islamic State named Christians in Egypt as “our first target and favourite prey”.
In a statement released today (30 May) His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, addressed the perpetrators of the attack, saying: ”You are loved”.
The violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent and detestable, but you are loved,” wrote Bishop Angaelos.
Adding that he grieved for those who had lost their lives and loved ones, the bishop wrote that he also grieved for those “who considered it a victory to board a bus filled with pilgrims and execute children, women and men purely for refusing to denounce their Faith.”
He concluded by asking that people join his in praying for the brokenness of the world that can cause “humankind to lose the humanity for which it was created.”
In response to Friday’s attacks, Egypt’s government conducted six airstrikes on jihadi training camps in the Libyan town of Derna.