A Delicate Anti-Terror Strategy for Egypt’s Coptic Churches
ICC Note: Blocked streets near Christian places of worship, checkpoints and walk-through metal detectors are just some of the new measures the government in Egypt has implemented to prevent any major terrorist attacks on churches.
4/12/2018 Egypt (World Crunch) – Police personnel stand behind riot shields with machine guns slung over their shoulders at the entrance to a narrow street connecting the corniche to the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the oldest in Warraq, a working-class neighborhood in northern Cairo where a sizable Coptic community lives. On celebration days, 15 police personnel take it in turns to secure the church, while on ordinary days there are only two. But the actual security check takes place further down the street, at the metal detector gate in front of the church, where young scouts check the identities and conduct the frisking of churchgoers. There are about a dozen scouts, most of them students, who are mobilized for such occasions.
Easter is the most important festival of the year for Coptic Christians in Egypt. It is also synonymous, like other festivities, with increased risk of attacks. Last year on Palm Sunday, two blasts at Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria killed at least 45 people. The Islamic State’s Egypt affiliate, Province of Sinai, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Security measures had been in place, but in the days following the bombings, the state decreed a state of emergency for three months, which is still in force. The extra security measures are now a matter of routine: blocked streets near Christian places of worship, checkpoints and walk-through metal detectors. Last Christmas, the government announced the deployment of 230,000 additional security personnel across the country to secure churches. Ahead of Easter, the privately owned Youm7 newspaper reported that the Interior Ministry would block some streets in Cairo up to 800 meters away from churches.
For interviews with Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: email@example.com.