Islamists Target Coptic Wedding

On October 20, 2013 masked assailants fired indiscriminately on wedding guests at the Virgin Mary Church in Warraq, a suburb of Cairo, killing four and injuring at least 18. The gunmen reportedly arrived on motorcycles and escaped before security forces could apprehend them. This attack is latest in a series of terrorist attacks that have occurred almost daily throughout Egypt since Morsi’s ouster on July 3, 2013.

Father Beshay Lotfi, a pastor at the Virgin Mary Church, stated that the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Warraq had always been extremely amicable, and that the assailants likely came from outside the town. While the site was fenced off and under investigation, Egyptian political and religious figures expressed their condolences and condemnation of the attack. Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi called the shooting a “despicable criminal act,” while Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam issued a statement saying that the “assaults on churches that include demolition, bombing, or killing their visitors or intimidating them is prohibited in the tolerant Islamic Shari’a.”

Other groups who denounced the attack in public statements include the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party; the liberal Dostour Party; the Salafist Nour Party; the Jama’a Al-Islamiya’s political arm, the Construction and Development Party; and the Tamarod movement. International human rights actors, including Amnesty International, encouraged Egyptian security forces to find a way to better protect Christians, who make up ten percent of Egypt’s population. Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Hassiba Hadja Sahraoui stated that, “the backlash against Coptic Christians should have been anticipated following the dramatic rise in similar incidents since Muhammad Morsi was ousted.”