The tragic attack on Egypt’s vulnerable Coptic Christian population on Palm Sunday appears to have had a chilling effect on the entire community as it approaches one of the year’s most sacred holidays, with the main Christian diocese in Egypt announcing Tuesday that it will not hold Easter celebrations this year.
In a statement, the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Minya said its Easter services will simply entail liturgical prayers, noting that observation of the holy day will solemnly proceed “without any festive manifestations” to pay homage to the 46 Coptic Christians slain by ISIS suicide bombers.
Egypt’s Coptic Christian community has historically faced religious persecution due to the region’s high Islamic population. In Minya province, which has the largest population of Coptic Christians of any Egyptian state, fearful villagers commonly celebrate Mass in secret in fear of retribution from neighboring Salafi Muslims.
Traditionally, Christians in Egypt celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus by holding Easter Vigil services on Saturday evening and reserving Easter Sunday for family togetherness, usually over a meal that is reminiscent in spirit of an American Christmas dinner.
Officials in Egypt have responded firmly to the heinous bombings, with the Egyptian Parliament unanimously confirming the state of emergency declared by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. For three months, the president will hold vast, unilateral powers that allow him to monitor communications and establish special courts to hunt down and prosecute ISIS sympathizers within Egypt.
Such measures have led the Pew Research Center to place Egypt at the top of its list of countries with high levels of governmental restrictions on religion. The distinction is seen by some within the country as a necessary evil in order to combat the growing threat of ISIS, which has openly vowed to carry out more attacks against Egypt’s Christian population.
Get a taste of Egypt’s 2016 Easter Sunday celebrations below: