Egyptian Authorities Throw Security Dragnet Across Churches
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi extended on Friday his wishes to Egyptian expatriates on the occasion of Christmas and the New Year.
Via a Facebook post, the Egyptian President said: “I am wishing you success and happiness, and that the new year will bring our beloved Egypt more security, stability, progress and prosperity.”
Meanwhile, Egypt’s security forces upped security measures around churches on the eve of the Coptic Orthodox Christmas.
In the Shobra district north of Cairo, where many Copts reside, armed forces blocked a main street near a large church and placed metal barricades to prevent vehicles from parking in the area.
At the St. Mary Church in al-Matariyyah district in the northern region of Greater Cairo, security forces placed a narrow metal gate.
“Such measures reflect caution and not fear. They aim to provide worshipers some safety and peace while praying,” a church official told Asharq Al-Awsat.
This year, Copts will celebrate their Christmas mass on January 6 amid the opening of the “The Nativity of the Christ Cathedral” in Egypt's New Administrative Capital, which lies 60 kilometers east of Cairo.
The mass will be attended by Sisi and Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II, the Church said in a statement.
In 2011, 21 people died and another 97 were injured in an attack in Alexandria which targeted Christian worshipers as they were leaving a New Year service.
In 2017, attacks in Alexandria and Tanta targeted Coptic churches on Palm Sunday, killing 47 and injuring more than 120.
Other attacks have also targeted Christians in Egypt.
A security source said that this year, the Egyptian Interior Ministry has drawn airtight security dragnets around churches.
In 2015, Sisi became the first Egyptian President to attend Christmas Mass.