Twin terrorist attacks in Istanbul, Turkey and Cairo, Egypt this weekend highlight the fragile situation in the eastern Mediterranean nations.
In Egypt, an attack on St. Peter and St. Paul church, adjoining Cairo’s St. Mark’s Cathedral, took place during Sunday morning prayers and killed 24 people, most of them women and children, according to an updated toll issued by the health ministry on Monday. At least 45 others were injured. The Guardian reports that there has been no claim of responsibility, but President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi named a 22-year-old, Mahmoud Shafik Mohamed Mostafa, as the alleged perpetrator of the suicide attack. He said other people, including one woman, had been arrested over their alleged involvement.
Coptic Pope Tawadros II attempted to focus on the unity of Egypt’s grief, denouncing the blast as “not just a disaster for the church but a disaster for the whole nation”.
CNN reports that a Kurdish militant group claimed responsibility for two bombings that led to the deaths of 44 people, including 37 police officers, and injured 155 others in Istanbul, according to Turkish Health Minister Recep Akdag. A car bomb was the source of the explosions, according to Turkish state-run news agency TRT, citing Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu. The explosions occurred after a heavily attended soccer game at Besiktas Vodafone Arena.
We are shocked and saddened by the attacks that took place this weekend. As usual, it is innocent citizens – particularly women and children – that suffer the most in these evil actions, as well as police officers that are there to protect citizens, as in the case of the bombing in Istanbul.
The jihadist attack on the church in Cairo came while Christians were in prayer during this Holy Advent season. We grieve over the violent evil perpetrated against these followers of Jesus, but we are confident that these brothers and sisters, now absent from the bodies killed by Islamists, are present with their Lord.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all those who died in both of these attacks, as well as those that were injured. We are grateful that President al-Sisi seeks to bring justice for the targeted Christians, knowing that impunity always leads to emboldened jihadists. We urge the incoming administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump to commit to making a priority the protection of Christians and other religious minorities threatened by political Islam.