The primate of the Anglican Church of Canada has joined world leaders in deploring the Jan. 1 bombing of a Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt, which killed 21 people and wounded nearly 100 others.
“With leaders of other churches and faith traditions, I deplore this and similar acts of violence and call for religious tolerance and for preservation of the freedom to worship in accord with traditions cherished by the faithful in God,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz in a statement.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, also issued a statement, saying the attack was “yet another dreadful reminder of the pressure Christian minorities are under in the Middle East…” Archbishop Williams said, however, that “we know the long and honourable history of co-existence of Christians and Muslims in Egypt and are confident that the overwhelming majority of Egyptian people will join in condemning this and similar acts.”
Archbishop Hiltz urged Canadians to pray for the victims and their families in Egypt and abroad. “I make this appeal trusting that at its heart, religion is a force for good and for peace in the world,” said Archbishop Hiltz. “In this season, when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, I ask Canadians to ‘devote yourselves to prayer,’ (Colossians 2:2) in steadfast hope for peace, justice and charity throughout the world.”
Pope Benedict XVI also condemned the bombing, saying “this vile gesture of death, like that of putting bombs near the houses of Christians in Iraq to force them to leave, offends God and all of humanity.”
A suspected suicide bomber attacked worshippers as they came out of a midnight Mass at the Saints Church. The bombing has sparked angry protests among Egypt’s Christians, the latest of which erupted in violence outside the Coptic Church headquarters, after the Pope of Alexandria, Pope Shenouda III, met with Muslim religious figures and government officials.
Coptic Christians account for about 10 per cent of Egypt’s population of 80 million.