The World Council of Churches (WCC) has condemned the attack on worshippers at the Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt where a bomb was detonated at the conclusion of the celebration of a New Year’s midnight mass. As a result, at least 21 people have been killed and more than 80 injured.
The WCC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, on behalf of the fellowship of WCC member churches and the entire ecumenical family, expressed profound sorrow as well as condolences and prayers for the families of the victims, for the wounded and for all the people of Egypt. He encouraged Egyptians to stand firm and united through the many trials and tribulations that continue to threaten. The events of 1 January 2011 are a reminder of other tragedies in the region, including an attack on Coptic worshippers in Nag Hammadi, Egypt on 7 January 2010 and the lethal assault on the Church of Our Lady of Salvation (Sayidat al-Nejat) in Baghdad, Iraq on 31 October 2010
Tveit recalled that the Baghdad attack took place at the time of a significant Muslim-Christian dialogue in Geneva and that the Muslim and Christian leaders who were present issued a joint denunciation of the act.
The World Council of Churches has appealed to President Mubarak of Egypt, to religious leaders and to governments across the region to act swiftly and boldly to safeguard the fundamental religious rights of worshippers of all faiths, to ensure security in the face of violence and to guarantee justice for all people.
Places of worship representing many different faith traditions have been targets of violence by extremists. Tveit said, “Government action must be matched by solidarity among Muslims, Christians and people of all faiths as they interact at the local level and together denounce any violent attack. We expect leaders to join once again in condemning such acts.”
Tveit referred to a message from the WCC Executive Committee to the churches in Egypt in 2010. At that time, he said, “the WCC expressed once again its deep concern and solidarity while affirming its unequivocal support to the churches of Egypt in these troubled times during which Coptic Christians continue to provide living examples of true Christian witness, to the point of martyrdom.”
In these difficult and challenging times, Tveit added, the WCC calls particularly on religious and national leaders to support the people in Egypt as they affirm life and engage in countering negative trends through peaceful means, such as proactive engagement in dialogue and partnership between Christians and Muslims in Egypt and throughout the world.