The attack, the latest in a series of similar incidents to rock the predominantly Muslim country, was the worst to target Christians in nearly a decade. Copts make up about 10 percent of the nation’s population of 80 million.
Two days after the incident, three suspects surrendered to police, who continue to face mounting pressure to resolve the escalating number of sectarian disputes. Human rights groups say sectarian violence has been on the rise in Egypt. Amnesty International reports that attacks on the Coptic Christian community left eight people dead in 2008.
In a letter of support sent to the Coptic Primate, His Holiness, Pope Shenouda III, dated January 12, 2010, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah expressed sympathy on behalf of the hierarchs, clergy, and faith of the Orthodox Church in America.
The text of Metropolitan Jonah’s letter reads as follows.
“Your Holiness, dear brother: The Holy Synod, the clergy, monastics, and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America offer prayers before God in behalf of the Coptic Christians murdered on Christmas Day, 2010, at the site of the Saint John Church, at the city of Nag Hamadi, and for all those who suffered and are suffering from the attack.
“At this blessed holiday of the birth of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, our Lord, we join you, Bishop Kirillos, and the faithful in beseeching the Almighty God to enlighten all Egyptians to live in peace and harmony. “It is our intention to discuss this incident and the on-going persecution of the Coptic Church with American authorities, with whom we shall meet in Washington, DC in January.”