Members of Egypt’s Christian minority flocked to church on Friday but two church bomb attacks on Palm Sunday that killed 45 people have left many in a sombre mood over Easter.
Worshippers from the nearly 2,000-year-old Coptic Christian community attended church services, but the holiday to mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ was being observed in subdued fashion, according to church officials.
In the city of Alexandria, Christians congregated at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, historic seat of the Coptic Pope, to attend Good Friday prayers. Worshippers passed through a metal detector at the building entrance, where one of the bombs went off.
Rafiq Bishry, head of the church’s organizational committee, said he was surprised that so many people had come.
“We expected that people would be too scared to attend prayers but there was no need for our expectations because there are a lot of people here,” he told Reuters Television.
“This is a clear message to the whole world that we are not afraid,” he said.
Last Sunday’s attacks in Alexandria and the city of Tanta were claimed by ISIS, which has been waging an insurgency against soldiers and police in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.
The group has now stepped up assaults on Christians and warned of more attacks to come. It has claimed to have killed 80 people in three church bombings since December.
Maha Ragaay, a Coptic Christian teacher who lives in Cairo, said she had avoided watching television on Palm Sunday, afraid of seeing the bloody images broadcast after the bombings.
“I do not want (these attacks) to happen again, but I don’t feel that we’re doing anything to stop this,” she said, lighting a candle in front of a small statue of the crucified Christ as she celebrated Easter with family and friends at home.
“I believe the main point we should focus on (to solve this) is education.”
Ragaay said she would be marking Easter in a state of mourning for those who had lost their lives.
Following the attacks, the government introduced a three-month state of emergency.
Copts make up about 10 percent of the 92-million population of mostly Muslim Egypt and are the region’s largest Christian denomination.