Houses of worship targeted in Egypt

Tensions surrounding houses of worship in Egypt have escalated to mass bloodshed in recent days.

On Nov. 25, militants waving the flag of the Islamic State (IS) killed 305 people at a northern Sinai mosque frequented by Sufi Muslims, worshippers who follow a mystical branch of Islam. IS has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but Egyptian forces are battling a stubborn remnant of the group in the area.

The attack, which left 27 children dead, is the bloodiest attack in Egypt’s modern history, according to The Christian Post.

Gunmen arrived at the mosque in jeeps, set off a bomb then opened fire on worshippers as they tried to escape.

In addition to those killed, more than 120 were wounded.

In the wake of the bloody attack, Coptic Christians in Egypt have been holding public prayer services for the victims, but they too have been dealing with tension and violence from outsiders.

In October, four Coptic churches in Mina were closed after locals launched a brutal attack on Christians there. Others were reportedly closed in the weeks that followed.

“We stayed silent for two weeks after the closure of a church hoping that the officials would do the job they were assigned to do by the state,” Bishop Macarius said in a statement. “However, this silence has led to something worse, as if prayer is a crime the Copts should be punished for. The Coptic Christians go to the neighboring villages to perform their prayers.”

In one incident, an aggressive mob of more than 1,000 gathered outside a Coptic church.

Within a two-week period, churches were closed, Copts were attacked and their property was destroyed with “no deterrent,” Macarius said.

But a top U.N. lawyer gave the Egyptian government a week to stop closing churches and reopen the ones that had been closed, the Post reported.

In mid-November, Joseph Malak, fellow of U.N. high commissioner for Minority Affairs, sent an official warning to Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, as well as the ministries of interior, local development, parliamentarian affairs and the governor of Alexandria calling for an end to the crackdown on churches.

Egypt has been named one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians, especially since the spread of ISIS in 2014. (TAB)