(ADDS CHURCH REACTIONS, MORE DETAILS)
By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
TRIPOLI/CAIRO (BosNewsLife)– Egypt on Monday, December 31, condemned the bombing of a Coptic Christian church in neighboring Libya that killed two Egyptians and wounded two others.
“[Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Kamel] Amr expresses sincere condolences to the families of the victims, stressing that Egypt demands [Libyan authorities] investigate the circumstances of the process and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The ruling Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood also condemned Sunday’s attack in the Mediterranean town Dafniya, near the western city of Misurata, calling it a “gross violation of the teachings of all religions, including Islam, as well as all customs and international covenants on human rights.”
In late Saturday’s attack, a homemade bomb was thrown at an administration building belonging to the Egyptian Coptic Christian church, said Ibrahim Rajab of the Misurata military council. It was the first major known assault on a Christian target since the revolution, according to media, though minority Christians had expressed concerns about their security.
“When we were praying we heard the explosion which struck a side room of the church used for services,” said Coptic priest Markos Zaglul Bulos, who took over the Mar Girgis (St George) church in 2004.
“I am very sad for this cowardly and criminal act and the loss of two of our sons,” French news agency AFP quoted Bulosas saying. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
About 150 people gathered at the church to for an afternoon funeral, according to reporters estimates. The stone church in Dafinya was built between 1936 and 1937 during Italian colonial rule and hundreds of Egyptians regularly attended services, its priest said.
Christians of other denominations also expressed their sorrow. “We are very sad for this event that comes at a delicate moment, after Christmas. We hope there will be no further incidents,” said pastor Dominique Rezeau of the St. Francis Catholic church in Tripoli in a statement.
The Egyptian consul in the city, Tareq Dahrouj, told reporters he had visited the church and the building where the two Egyptian men, who were church workers, were killed.
“The explosion seems like it was very strong, and I have started making my investigations with Misurata officials,” he said in published remarks. The names of those who died were not yet released.
Libya has small communities of Egyptians, Greeks and Italians who account for most of the Christian minority in the heavily Islamic country. There are also several thousand native Coptic Christians in Libya, according to church estimates.
Tens of thousands of Egyptian workers, including Copts, have returned to work in Libya following last year’s civil war, despite security dangers.
Libya’s new rulers have struggled to impose their authority on numerous armed groups who helped oust Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi last year but have yet to lay down their arms. Journalists have noticed that it’s easy to buy even rocket launchers and other heavy weapons in the region.
Monday’s condemnation by the Egyptian government and consul was also aimed at Coptic Christians in Egypt, who have become increasingly concerned about
increased Islamic attacks against churches since the 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
At least dozens of Coptic Christians are known to have died in violence in Egypt within the last two years. Coptic Christians have also expressed concerns that Egypt’s new constitution, accepted in a referendum this month, will increase Islamic influence.
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