After over eight months, St George’s Church in Cairo has reopened its doors, allowing worshippers and visitors alike to come back before Christmas.
On 9th April earlier this year, an ISIS militant ran towards the church’s altar during the Palm Sunday worship service and detonated his explosive belt. The attack killed 27 people and wounded 78 others, and has left a scar on Cairo’s Coptic population ever since. The attack on St George’s Church was coordinated with a second attack on the St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria, which killed a further 18 people and wounded dozens more.
Since the attack, the church has not received any worshippers or visitors. But following the restoration of the church’s walls and halls, its doors have reopened. While the painful memory of the past remains, Daniel Maher, one of the church’s priests, has signalled his and other Copts’ happiness at returning.
“We have not entered the Church since 9th April when the incident took place, almost 8 months ago,” said Maher. “We are happy to be back in the Church to pray and practice our religious rites. The Church is a means of salvation and a place of worship for people. Everyone rejoices when they attend the church and pray.”
Throughout 2017, Coptic Christians in Egypt have been attacked and their religious institutions and edifices destroyed. In May earlier this year, gunmen attacked the Monastery of Saint Samuel, killing 28 worshippers. In the same month, a Christian man was killed in the extremely volatile area of Arish in Egypt’s Sinai Province.
However, the reopening of the church in Cairo is a symbol of defiance against extremists and their bloody attacks. Coptic Christians form approximately 10% of Egypt’s population and have a history in the country dating back centuries.