CAIRO, April 11, (Agencies): Egyptian churches, in the southern city of Minya, said on Tuesday that they will not hold Easter celebrations in mourning for 45 Coptic Christians killed this week in twin bombings of churches in two cities during Palm Sunday ceremonies.
The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said that celebrations will only be limited to the liturgical prayers “without any festive manifestations.” Minya province has the highest Coptic Christian population in the country. Copts traditionally hold Easter church prayers on Saturday evening and then spend Easter Sunday on large meals and family visits. Parliament approved on Tuesday President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s decision to declare a three-month state of emergency following the attacks, an action seen as a foregone conclusion since the legislature is packed with el- Sisi supporters. The Cabinet declared it had gone into effect as of 1 pm on Monday.
The unicameral chamber preliminarily approved amendments to a set of laws on Monday aimed at speeding up the trials of those charged in terrorism- related cases. Following the attacks, el-Sisi ordered the formation of a new body called the “Supreme Council to Combat Terrorism and Fanaticism”. Sunday’s bombings, claimed by the Islamic State group, are the latest escalation by the extremist group — which recently vowed to step up its attacks against Egypt’s embattled Christian minority. The group had claimed responsibility for the December bombing of a church adjacent to St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, one of the most symbolic religious sites for Egyptian Copts.
That explosion killed 30 worshippers and injured dozens. The countrywide state of emergency was declared by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Sunday after the attacks but required parliamentary approval according to the constitution. The end of emergency law was a key demand during the 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, who had imposed a 30-year state of emergency to crush opposition. The law was lifted after Mubarak stepped down but re-imposed temporarily in the years that followed.
Addressing parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the state of emergency was essential to combat what he called terrorist groups bent on undermining the country. “The emergency law is aimed at enemies of the homeland and citizens, and it will grant state apparatuses greater ability, flexibility, and speed to confront an evil enemy that has not hesitated to kill and wreak havoc without justification or discrimination,” he said. The law’s return raises fears among some Egyptians, who see it as a formal return to the pre-2011 police state, at a time when rights activists say they already face the worst crackdown in their history. “By implementing the state of emergency almost all the guarantees that exist for rights and freedoms in the constitution will be halted,” said Nasser Amin, head of an Egyptian-run organization working to advance judicial independence.
The law grants the executive branch sweeping powers, allowing it to close companies, shutter media outlets, halt demonstrations and monitor personal communications without judicial approval, Amin said. The Arab Network for Human Rights Information said the law would not achieve security and was intended to “further suppress freedom of opinion, expression and belief, and to crack down on human rights defenders”.