WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), a member of Congress’ International Religious Freedom Caucus, released the following statement in response to the bombing of the largest Coptic Christian church in Cairo. The attack killed at least 25 people and left dozens more wounded.
He said, “Today, a group of Christian worshippers gathered in prayer only to be brutally targeted for practicing their faith. This heinous attack on Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral is yet another example of the dire need to unite against terrorism around the globe. My deepest condolences go out to everybody affected.”
The explosion took place inside St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral at the 100-year-old Botrosiya Church, also known as the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, shortly after the 200 or so worshippers had finished the readings from the Bible and the priest was about to deliver his sermon, witnesses said, as reported in the Washington Post. Many of the victims were women since the bomb apparently went off in the women’s section of the church.
At press time, no group had taken responsibility for the bombing which occurred on a public holiday in Egypt celebrating the birthday of the prophet Mohammed. Though the celebration is a Muslim one, the holiday meant there were more than the usual number of people attending church since they had the day off. In recent years, Coptic Christians have been targeted for increased violence in Egypt where they make up about ten percent of the population. Protests erupted after the bombing.
Congressman Bilirakis is also the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and is a second generation Greek and devout Greek Orthodox Christian, proudly carrying his family’s heritage into his work on the Caucus.
First created in 1995, the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues is a bipartisan group of concerned Members of Congress working to foster and improve relations between the United States and our important allies, Greece and Cyprus. The Caucus brings Congressional attention to key diplomatic, military, and human rights issues in a critical part of the world.