Today, on Palm Sunday, violent extremists struck at the heart of Coptic Christians, when suicide bombers killed at least 44 people and injured more than a hundred in two churches in Egypt. Both churches were filled with congregants, peacefully gathered to celebrate one of their holiest days.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the brutal attacks – crimes against humanity, this time, against a minority Christian community in the Middle East. Not only did these communities lose loved ones on this holy day, but the extremists tried to destroy the feeling of communal security that houses of worship can provide.
Tragically, these suicide bombings are not isolated events. Instead, they are the latest in a litany of attacks against Coptic Christians in recent decades, including the destruction of 40 Coptic Churches in 2013, the beheading of 21 Copts by ISIS in Libya in 2015, and the murder of 30 at a cathedral in Cairo last December.
Today, as we keep the Coptic Christian community in our thoughts, let us honor the victims by recalling the significance of the palm branch. For many, it’s a symbol of peace and victory.
Together, we can choose to define peace as more than just freedom from violence. We can define it as a world where justice is practiced, where differences of belief (or lack of belief) are respected, religious minorities are welcomed and their freedoms protected. Today, on what is a holy day for so many worldwide, let’s recommit to pursuing peace by accepting others and honoring the freedom of peaceful worship.
Wishing all who celebrate, a blessed Palm Sunday,
Joyce S. Dubensky