Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas on January 7, and Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt marked the holiday by defiantly holding mass at Christ’s Nativity Cathedral outside Cairo and other churches throughout the predominantly Muslim country despite threats from the Islamic State.
Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a Muslim, joined worshipers for a Christmas Eve service on Saturday, as soldiers and heavily armed police patrolled nearby. As Fox News reported, Christian places of worship in Egypt are now equipped with metal detectors and congregants must undergo full body searches before entering. In some cases, streets and surrounding areas were closed off to further ensure protection.
“We, with the grace of God, are offering a message of peace and love from here, not just to Egyptians or to the region, but to the entire world,” el-Sissi told worshipers while standing next to Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic pontiff.
ISIS militants in Egypt have been carrying out deadly attacks against Christians since December 2016, including an ambush late last month when two gunmen opened fire outside a Coptic church in Cairo killing at least nine people.
The massive new Christ’s Nativity Cathedral, which is located about 28 miles east of Cairo in Egypt’s new Administrative Capital, can house up to 9,000 people. El-Sissi’s visit marked an important display of unity with the Orthodox community, which makes the majority of Egypt’s 10-million strong Christian population.
“I always say this and repeat it: Destruction, ruin and killing will never be able to defeat goodness, construction, love and peace,” the president said. “It’s impossible. Pay attention, you are our family. You are part of us. We are one and no one will ever drive a wedge between us.”
(H/T: Fox News)