Egyptian Christians have buried six members of the same family who were shot dead while returning from a baptism at a monastery in Egypt’s Minya province, south of Cairo, on Friday.
Britain, Germany, the US and Arab States have joined in condemning the terrorist attack on three buses near the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor in Minya, 260km from Cairo. Seven people were killed and 18 wounded, including children.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the first attack on Egypt’s Christian minority since last December, when a gunman killed 11 people at a church and Christian-owned shop near Cairo.
The Copts, an Orthodox Christian denomination who make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s more than 90 million population, are the Middle East’s largest Christian community. They have long complained of persecution and insufficient protection.
“No one accepts injustice, intimidation and blood shedding.” – Bishop Anba Makarious
Security sources say gunmen fired on the buses, which were using a back road to reach the monastery, as the main road to the monastery had been closed due to security concerns.
Bishop Anba Makarios of Minya attempted to calm hundreds of angry mourners who gathered for funeral prayers at a church in Minya, on Saturday.
“There is a mix of sadness and pain,” said a tearful Bishop Makarios, the outspoken head of the Coptic diocese in Minya, where the highest number of sectarian violence incidents in Egypt have taken place.
“Sadness as these painful events are being repeated, and pain because Copts are part of this homeland and part of its fabric.
“No one accepts injustice, intimidation and blood shedding. I am grieving just like you all and they were our sons too, but I am also proud that Minya is offering more martyrs every year.”
“We want retribution for them or we will die like them.”
Reports said mourners spilled out of the pews screaming, sobbing and praying over six white coffins, and rejecting the condolences of members of the security services.
Dressed in black, they held pictures of the victims and flowers and a large wooden cross, and demanded justice, calling on the authorities to act.
“With blood and soul, we will defend you, oh cross,” they chanted. “We want retribution for them or we will die like them.”
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“I mourn with deep sorrow the martyrs who were killed today by treacherous hands which aim to undermine the solid fabric of the nation, and I wish speedy recovery for the injured,” he said.
His government pledged 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($A7767) in compensation to the families of the dead, and 50,000 to those who needed extended medical treatment, the state news agency MENA said.
Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, said in a statement: “It is hard to fathom what one might think could be a justification or a result out of today’s or similar attacks. It is difficult to believe that anyone can find justification to accept, let alone, perpetrate acts like this, and yet they do.
“We pray repose for our departed children and brethren.” – Archbishop Angaelos
“Those who were murdered can never return, and some who were injured and affected will never fully heal, and so the purpose of speaking out is not merely to express anger, but to call upon the humanity and humaneness of perpetrators of this crime, and similar crimes past and present, appealing to the sense and mercy of those who may, as a result, refuse to carry out such barbaric brutality ever again.
“As we farewell those who have departed, we do so in the spirit of hope and the resurrection that awaits us; as we comfort those injured and grieving, we do so in the spirit of confidence in God’s healing hand; and as we consider the effect this attack has on us all as Coptic Orthodox Christians, we do so in the spirit of the love and empowering grace that we are all called to live.
“We pray repose for our departed children and brethren, healing for the injured, and comfort for those mourning and directly affected by this crime. We also pray for those further afield who continue to face similar attacks merely for living and expressing their faith, whatever that may be. We also pray God’s peace upon Egypt, and all her people.