Christians in Kurdistan express sadness after explosions target churches in Egypt

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The joy of Palm Sunday for Christians in the Kurdistan Region wasn't going to be overshadowed by two bomb blasts killing at least two dozen Coptic churchgoers in Egypt.

"It's sad to hear the news," Father Thabet Yousif told Rudaw English. "For us it has become a normal thing to mix the joy with pain in these bad situations in the Middle East. But we have to move forward."

At least two bombs exploded near churches in Egypt as of early Sunday afternoon.

The first hit St. George's Coptic Church in Tanta about 120 kilometers north of Cairo, according to AFP news agency.

At least 22 people were killed and 71 people were injured in the explosion, according to Egypt's health ministry.

The second exploded in front of a church in Alexandria killing at least two people and injuring 21, according to state-run Nile TV.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for an emergency security meeting following the blasts and a nationwide search of all Coptic churches for further explosives.

Palm Sunday, is celebrated by Christians to commemorate Jesus' return to Jerusalem five days prior to his crucifixion.


"It is the preface to Easter that we have many rites before Easter to do these traditions,” Yousif said.
The Coptics follow orthodox Christian doctrine and mainly live in Egypt and northern Africa. 

At least 40 churches across Egypt have been targeted August 2013, according to Human Rights Watch.
Pope Francis, who is due to visit Egypt later this month, has condemned the attack.

"We connect through the cross,” Yousif, who is originally from Karimless but fled with his parishioners to Ankawa in August 2014 just hours before ISIS came.

"The displaced people, we returned to Karimless to celebrate the day and to share in the ceremony,” Yousif added, saying that they hope to be able to return for good one day.

An estimated 200,000 Christians including Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syriacs, and Armenians live in the Kurdistan Region, according to umbrella Christian non-governmental organization Shlomo based in Ainkawa.

The organization said about the same number is believed to have sought refuge abroad.

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