KJV Bible Verse of the Day

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Christmas of mourning

By KATE SHELLNUTT Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle
Jan. 6, 2011, 6:10PM

Coptic Orthodox congregations in Houston have joined churches worldwide in canceling today’s Christmas services as a way to mourn the victims of a suicide bombing at a church in Egypt last week and to avoid further violence by anti-Christian terrorists.

In the U.S., where about 200 Coptic Orthodox congregations go relatively unknown, Egyptian-American Copts remain scared and brokenhearted on a holiday so central to their Christian faith.

The New Year’s Day bombing was the worst in the country in decades, and an al-Qaeda affiliated website threatened more, encouraging attacks against Coptic churches during Christmas, which on their Alexandrian calendar falls about two weeks later than the traditional Dec. 25 holiday.

“This is a very frightening and ugly persecution,” said the Rev. Younan Labib, a priest at St. Mary & Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church in northwest Houston. “We are disappointed in Egypt and the security. At this point, we have nobody to turn to but God himself.”

With more security than usual, his congregation — made up of about 250 Coptic families — was to attend basic Nativity services Thursday night, with a liturgy lasting about five hours. They sang Christmas hymns in Coptic, their joyful tunes sounding out over the simple cling of cymbals and a triangle.

For Christmas, the congregation typically joins together for savory, indulgent potluck dinner, after a 43-day fast from meat, dairy and fruit. This year, there’s no break-the-fast gathering, no services and no festive decorations, out of respect for the church family they lost and concern for their own security.

Events were also canceled at St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Bellaire, Archangel Raphael Coptic Orthodox Church in Clear Lake and others across the state, as directed by the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States, based in Dallas.

“We pray for the souls of our departed brethren and for their families. We ask our Lord to protect us during this difficult time,” the diocese said in a statement.

Though the FBI remains on heightened alert when there are generalized holiday threats worldwide, “we are not aware of any specific or articulable threat that targets any Coptic church or specific location in our territory,” said special agent Shauna Dunlap, with the FBI’s Houston Field Office.

The Coptic Church, the largest in Egypt, belongs to the Oriental Orthodox communion, whose practices resemble Eastern Orthodoxy. It split from the Eastern and Western church in the 5th century.

Shumukh-al-Islam, the Arabic website thought to be affiliated with al-Qaeda, had listed the names, pictures, addresses and phone numbers of Coptic Christians in the Middle East, Europe and Canada, including the site of the bombing in Egypt’s capital that killed 21 and injured nearly 100 more, according to the Associated Press. The threats have been enough to scare worshippers away.

“It is sad, but it will discourage people,” said Labib. “They knew people in Alexandria.”

Though Egyptian Copts, who make up just 10 percent of the Muslim-majority nation, say their persecution is nothing new, things seem to be getting worse for Christians there and across the Middle East.

“It’s been a 30-year escalation. It didn’t happen overnight,” said S. Michael Saad, the chair of the Council for Coptic Studies at Claremont Graduate University, outside Los Angeles.

In L.A., 5,000 Copts protested in the streets following the recent attack, which struck the community with its intensity and proximity to Christmas.

“Egyptian churches have never seemed to be on top of al-Qaeda’s agenda, but that’s reignited as a result of anti-Christian propaganda in the country,” said Aidan Clay, who works in Egypt and the Middle East with the human rights group International Christian Concern.

Rumors thought to have prompted the recent attacks allege that the Coptic Church has held members against their will for trying to convert to Islam. Al-Qaeda has also threatened Christians across the spectrum, including Roman Catholics and underground Protestant churches in the region, Clay said.

Muslim groups have condemned such attacks as extreme positions that do not represent their faith.

“We condemn the heinous attacks on churches in Egypt and Nigeria and repudiate the apparent motive of the perpetrators to harm long-term relations between Muslims and Christians,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement. “The best response to these cowardly attacks is to redouble efforts to build bridges of understanding between faiths.

Activists, Copts and clergy are calling on the U.S. government to put pressure on Egypt — a recipient of foreign aid — to do more to protect religious freedom in the country.

“We are trying to talk to leaders, whoever they are, to get them to put pressure on Egypt, let them know they face consequences for allowing this to happen,” said Labib, who moved to Houston and became ordained nine years ago. “Everyone there is my family. The Coptic people are my brothers and sisters.”




Friday, January 7, 2011

Egypt fears Coptic Christmas bombings

Egyptian authorities are on high alert, on the eve of Coptic Christmas, for fear of another attack like the New Year's suicide bombing of a church that killed 21 people. Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

Egyptian authorities put up a heavy security cordon early Thursday around the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo hours before Christmas Eve Mass, hoping to prevent another attack like the New Year's suicide bombing of a church that killed 21 people.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq had threatened Christians in Iraq and Egypt in the weeks leading up to the holidays, and militant websites have even posted online lists of churches in Egypt to target with their addresses.

Egypt's Coptic Christian minority, which makes up 10 per cent of Egypt's 80 million people, celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7. Some Christians have said they will skip Christmas Eve services for fear that there will be more attacks.

Across the country, police were preventing vehicles from parking near churches. They also planned to check identity cards of those entering churches and ban people from bringing in bags and purses.

Outside the Coptic cathedral in downtown Cairo, security officers with walkie-talkies fanned out across the surrounding streets to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.

In the southern province of Minya, a worker at a church found a small explosive device packed with nails and fireworks planted under the building's stairs, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

He said the device appeared to have been put there to "test security measures."

Several daily newspapers reported that Egypt's Interior Ministry has asked church officials to prevent crowds from gathering in front of churches after Mass.

The request appeared aimed at avoiding the same sort of target hit in the Jan. 1 bombing in Alexandria — worshippers lingering outside of a church after a midnight service.

Six days after the bombing, Egyptian authorities appear to have made little headway in their investigation. The perceived lack of progress has fanned fears among many Christians of possible repeat attacks.

Those concerns have grown since several Coptic websites circulated statements allegedly posted on Islamic militant websites listing more than 40 other churches in Egypt and abroad as possible targets.



Papal Message - 7th January 2011

Feast of Nativity
7th January 2011
My beloved children in the lands of immigration, both clergy and laity.
Peace to you and grace. My congratulations for the Feast of Nativity of our Lord, to Whom is Glory.
Be all well, shepherded by God who keeps you. May we hear all good about you. May you have contemplations in the Glorious Nativity and its happenings.

As for us, I want you not to worry about us – we are well......

The painful circumstances that happened to us have brought compassion upon us from all sides, as well as extreme care and eagerness in protecting the churches, as well as care for our cause. Also, tribulation, by its nature, makes the soul closer to God. And we believe that God is the Protector and Helper, and that “unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” We also believe the promise of the Lord to His Church, that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. Therefore all are in peacefulness.

Be calm all of you, assured of the work of the Lord, and all of you to rejoice in this Feast, for it is the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I mean, His Incarnation was the starting point for all the good that graced humanity till it was crowned with redemption. As well, the Incarnation was proof of the love of God to us, and the reconciliation that was fulfilled between heaven and earth.

Rejoice in the Lord my dear children, and again I say rejoice. In all circumstances that pass by you, say ‘it’s all for good.”

Finally, my love to you all.
Be absolved from the Holy Spirit.
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III
Feast of Nativity 2011


Sunday, January 2, 2011 - Funeral Prayers for the Martyrs of Alexandria

Parishes in the Greater Toronto Area gathered in a Prayer Service and outpouring of love for the persecuted and the persecutors, to pray the Funeral Prayers of the Coptic Orthodox Rite for the blessed departed and crowned martyrs of Alexandria (Al-Kedeseen Church in Sidi Beshr, Alexandria EGYPT) who witnessed their Love for Christ in Faith and Works as the Body of Christ. The three hour service expressed solidarity with the many strong Faithful Christians in Egypt who love their muslim brothers and sisters, and who humbly profess their Faith in Christ in the face of fear, threat of bodily harm and security. Many of the wounded and many of the congregations all across Egypt and the Middle East have professed that the celebrations and worship in churches will not cease but will grow more fervent in love through the love and prayers of the Saints, the martyrs and the departed, that the Peace and Truth of Christ will transform hearts and strengthen the Faithful. Amen.

The Martyrs of Alexandria received their crowns after a terrorist attack near the conclusion of Divine Liturgy early New Year's Morning (on the 23rd of Khiak, 1727 AM).

Please keep all Christians and all who do not yet know the Joy of Christ in your prayers. Amen.

The Coptic clergy and congregations of South Western Ontario gathered at Nathan Phillips Square on Sunday, January 2nd to pray the general funeral service for the souls of the martyrs who were massacred in Alexandria on New Year's eve. The service was attended by thousands of parishioners, the media, and several dignitaries. Everyone in attendance was grieving for the heartless and cowardly terror attack on innocent Christians exiting a church service following the New Year's eve vigil. The Canadian government along with the opposition party condemned the attack and vowed to take action to ensure that such assaults are not repeated in the future. The funeral prayer was glorious as everyone participated in the hymnology and asked God for mercy. As a church community, we send our deepest and heartfelt condolences to our brothers and sisters who were injured and those who lost loved ones. We also pray for our beloved father H.H. Pope Shenouda III who has always led his people with wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit during these crises. May the Lord preserve for us his life for many more years and protect the Church and the entire Coptic faithful under his holiness' leadership. Amen


SBS News Report on Coptic Massacre 2


Egyptian police fear repeat of new year's bombing in Alexandria

Egyptian police guard the al-Azraa Coptic church in the Shubra district of Cairo as Coptic Christmas starts.
Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty

Egyptian authorities put up a heavy security cordon today around the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo hours before Christmas Eve mass, using bomb-sniffing dogs, metal detectors and officers to thwart another attack like the New Year's suicide bombing at a church in Alexandria that killed 21 people.

Al-Qaida in Iraq had threatened Christians in Iraq and Egypt in the weeks leading up to the holidays, while militant websites have allegedlyposted online lists of churches in Egypt to target.

Egypt's Coptic Christian minority, which makes up 10% of the 80 million population, celebrates Christmas tomorrow. Some have said they will avoid Christmas Eve services.

Across Egypt, police were stopping vehicles from parking near churches. They also planned to check identity cards of those entering churches and ban worshippers from bringing in bags and purses. Outside the Coptic cathedral in central Cairo, security officers with walkie-talkies patrolled the surrounding streets.

In the southern province of Minya, a worker at one church found a small explosive device packed with nails and fireworks planted under the stairs, a security official said, adding that the device appeared designed to "test security measures".

Several daily newspapers said the interior ministry has asked church officials to prevent crowds from gathering outside churches after mass. The request appeared aimed at avoiding a repeat of the attack in Alexandria, in which worshippers lingering outside after a midnight service were targeted.

Yesterday, the ministry published a picture of an unidentified man whose head was found at the scene of the Alexandria attack. A security official said church officials could not identify the man, but presumed he could be the attacker.

But six days after the bombing, Egyptian authorities appear to have made little progress in their investigation. The perceived lack of progress has fanned Christians' fears of repeat attacks.

Those concerns have grown since several Coptic websites circulated statements allegedly posted on Islamic militant websites listing more than 40 other churches in Egypt and abroad as possible targets.

The bombing of the Alexandria church, the worst act of sectarian violence in Egypt in a decade, touched off days of demonstrations and riots by the Christians blaming the government for encouraging discrimination and prejudice and not doing enough to protect them.

In a gesture of solidarity with the Coptic Christian minority, Egyptian activists have called on Muslims to form human shields in front of the churches on Christmas Eve



CNN Egypt's Christian Martyrs 2011

They went to worship God on New Years Eve and now they are with God forever.

At least 21 people were killed and 70 injured in the suspected suicide attack, which happened during a New Year's Eve service at the al-Qiddissin Church.

Several hundred Christians later clashed nearby with Muslims and police.

US President Barack Obama condemned "this barbaric and heinous act" and said those behind it had to be brought to justice.

"The perpetrators of this attack were clearly targeting Christian worshippers, and have no respect for human life and dignity," he said.

"We are continuing to gather information regarding this terrible event, and are prepared to offer any necessary assistance to the government of Egypt in responding to it," he added. This sinful act is part of a series of efforts to drive a wedge between Copts and Muslims"

About 1,000 worshippers were attending the Mass at the al-Qiddissin (Saints) Church in the Sidi Bechr district of the Mediterranean port city.

As the service drew to a close about half an hour after midnight, a bomb went off in the street outside.

"The last thing I heard was a powerful explosion and then my ears went deaf," 17-year-old Marco Boutros told the Associated Press from his hospital bed. "All I could see were body parts scattered all over."

Another witness told the private On-TV channel that he had seen two men park a car outside the church and get out just before the blast.

Officials initially thought the cause was a car bomb, but the interior ministry later ruled it out, saying the attack was instead "carried out by a suicide bomber who died among the crowd".

Yolande Knell Middle East specialist

This is the second consecutive Christmas that will be overshadowed by bloodshed for Egypt's Coptic community.

On 6 January 2010 - the Orthodox Christmas Eve - six worshippers and a Muslim police officer were killed in a drive-by shooting close to a church in the southern town of Naga Hamady. That was the country's worst sectarian attack in a decade. The latest bombing targeting Christians was unprecedented.

Clashes between Muslims and Christians have increased and become more geographically widespread in Egypt in recent years. A protester died in November as security forces fought with Copts demonstrating over a new church. Elsewhere, sectarian tensions have resulted from minor disputes between neighbours, conversions and divisive decisions by public servants and judges.

Egypt is also no stranger to attacks by Islamist extremists. The group, al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, said it was behind several bombings at Red Sea holiday resorts between 2004 and 2006, which left a total of 130 people dead.

A nearby mosque was also damaged by the explosion and the casualties included eight injured Muslims, the health ministry said. Three policemen and an officer guarding the church were also among the wounded.

Hours after the attack, President Mubarak went on state television to express his shock and vow to track down those behind it.

"This act of terrorism shook the country's conscience, shocked our feelings and hurt the hearts of Muslim and Coptic Egyptians," he said.

"The blood of their martyrs in Alexandria mixed to tell us all that all Egypt is the target and that blind terrorism does not differentiate between a Copt and a Muslim.

"We are all in this together and will face up to terrorism and defeat it."

Mr Mubarak described the attack as a "terrorist operation which carries, within itself, the hallmark of foreign hands which want to turn Egypt into another scene of terrorism like elsewhere in the region and the wider world".

Egypt's top Muslim leaders also expressed their condolences and unity.

The Islamist opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, said no religion in the world could condone such a crime. BBC NEWS


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Church Attack in Alexandria Egypt

Church Attack in Alexandria Egypt at New Year's Midnight Celebration

Martyrs Blood Cross

Martyrs Blood on Church Walls

Martyrs Blood on Church Walls

Alexandria Church Martyrs Funeral in Mar Mina Monastery

Alexandria Church Martyrs Funeral in Mar Mina Monastery


Egypt bomb kills new year churchgoers

At least 21 people have been killed and more than 70 injured in Egypt in a suspected suicide bombing outside a church in Alexandria as worshippers left a new year service.

It was initially thought a car bomb had caused the explosion just after midnight at the Coptic orthodox al-Qidiseen church. But the interior ministry suggested a foreign-backed suicide bomber may have been responsible.

The blast did not originate in any of the cars that were destroyed, a ministry statement said. "It is likely that the device which exploded was carried by a suicide bomber who died among others."

The circumstances of the attack "clearly indicates that foreign elements undertook planning and execution", the statement said.

The governor of Alexandria, Adel Labib, accused al-Qaida of planning the bombing. "The al-Qaida organisation threatened to attack churches inside Egypt. This has nothing to do with sectarianism," he told state television.

His assessment was shared by Kameel Sadeeq of the city's Coptic Christian council. "People went in to church to pray to God but ended up as scattered limbs," he told Reuters. "This massacre has al-Qaida written all over, the same pattern al-Qaida has adopted in other countries."

Senior health ministry official Osama Abdel-Moneim said the death toll stood at 21 – a figure also reported by the state media – and at least 79 had been wounded. Health minister Hatem el-Gabaly told the Reuters news agency that 17 people had been confirmed dead, 12 of them identified as Christians. Five bodies had yet to be identified, he added.

"The last thing I heard was a powerful explosion and then my ears went deaf," Marco Boutros, a 17-year-old survivor, said from his hospital bed. "All I could see were body parts scattered all over legs and bits of flesh."

Following the blast, hundreds of Christians took to the streets, clashing with police and Muslims. Some Christians and Muslims pelted each other with rocks after a mosque was reportedly targeted. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds. The Reuters news agency reported that some of the protesting Christians had shouted: "We sacrifice our souls and blood for the cross."

The interior ministry said the blast also damaged a mosque near the church and eight Muslims were among the wounded.

Nearly 1,000 Christians attended the mass at the church, according to a priest, Father Mena Adel. "I was inside the church and heard a huge explosion," he said. "People's bodies were in flames."

"This is a scene from Baghdad," said another witness.

People reported seeing the charred chassis of a destroyed car, with the remains of several bodies nearby and dozens wounded.

President Hosni Mubarak went on state TV and vowed to track down those behind the attack, pledging "we will cut off the hands of terrorists and those plotting against Egypt's security". He added that the bombing was an attack on "all Egypt" and that "terrorism does not distinguish between Copt and Muslim".

Christians make up about 10% of Egypt's population of 79 million.

Security around churches has been stepped up in recent months with the authorities banning cars from parking directly outside them, after an al-Qaida-linked group in Iraq threatened the Egyptian church in November.

The Islamic State of Iraq, which claimed responsibility for an attack on a church in Baghdad in November, threatened the Egyptian church over its treatment of women who the Islamist group claimed were being held after they had converted to Islam.

In November, hundreds of Christians rioted in the capital, Cairo, smashing cars and windows after police stopped the construction of a church.



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