Interreligious Leaders Decry Coptic Church Attack

Orthodox Bishop Welcomes Papal Message

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FRANKFURT, Germany, JAN. 12, 2011 ( Religious leaders representing Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox and Protestant communities in Frankfurt gathered to condemn the Jan. 1 attack on the Orthodox Coptic Church of the Saints in Alexandria, Egypt.

The attack killed 23 and wounded more than 100 people. In Frankfurt on Saturday, religious and political leaders gathered for a memorial service for the victims in the Coptic Orthodox church of St. Mark.

They gathered also to pray for peace and religious freedom, and to express the commitment against anti-Christian discrimination.

Bishop Anba Damian, head of the Orthodox Copts in Germany, told Aid to the Church in Need, «Even the little children among us have to learn to live with the Cross.»

«We are a church of martyrs,» he said. «No one can make us fear. Our faithful will continue to pray, even if it should be their last act of worship, for the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.»

The bishop welcomed the message of Benedict XVI which, he said, had «eased much pain.»
In his homily on Saturday, the prelate described the anti-Christian discrimination in Egypt, stating, «To wish to be a Christian is not a criminal act!»

«We merely wish to live as equal citizens, sharing all the same rights and duties,» he said.

The prelate called on the Egyptian authorities to punish the attackers, lest they give «a green light to the terrorists.»

He appealed for «preventative measures, so that such a thing does not happen again,» urging the Muslim leaders in the mosques to preach in a way that would cause people to go home with peace in their hearts and not with anger.


The bishop noted that the solidarity of the interreligious leaders in Germany and other countries, and the presence of the chairman of the Central Muslim Council in Germany at Saturday’s service, was for his church members «balm on their open wounds.»

Catholic Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg gave an address at the service underlining the Church’s respect «for the ancient traditions of the Church in Egypt and in a special way for the venerable Patriarchate of Alexandria» which, he said, was dignified «by the witness of numerous saints, martyrs and doctors of the Church.»

He urged the Egyptian authorities to establish «a legal system that consistently tackles injustice against Christians also, and prosecutes and punishes it.»

Bishop Athanagoras Ziliaskopoulos, the representative of the Orthodox bishops’ conference and chairman of the Interfaith Council in Germany, asserted that this «cowardly attack has revealed the high price that Christians have to pay for their faith, precisely in those places that are closely associated with the origin of Christianity.»

Aiman Mayzek, chairman of the Muslim Central Council in Germany, condemned the attack, noting that «acts of terror and atrocities will not erase what Copts have given to Muslims in the way of peace and shelter.»

He stated, «The attackers will not succeed in driving a wedge between Christians and Muslims.»

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