Eyewitnesses said the Copts were attacked as they were going to pray at the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in the western part of the province.
They said masked men stopped the vehicles on a road leading to the monastery and opened fire.
One of the vehicles attacked was taking men to carry out maintenance work at the monastery while another was carrying children, officials said.
The Health Ministry said among those injured were two children aged two.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
However it bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State, which has been spearheading an insurgency that has carried out deadly attacks in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and, increasingly, on the country’s mainland.
Egypt launches airstrikes
Egypt responded by launching airstrikes against what it said were militant training bases in Libya.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi announced the retaliatory action hours after the bus was riddled with machine-gun fire on a remote desert road by suspected Islamic State militants riding in three SUVs.
“What you’ve seen today will not go unpunished. An extremely painful strike has been dealt to the bases. Egypt will never hesitate to strike terror bases anywhere,” Mr el-Sissi said.
He also appealed to US President Donald Trump to lead the global war against terror.
Muslim leaders, including the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which is seeking to improve relations with neighbouring Egypt, condemned the attack.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum in a statement called the shooting “an ugly crime,” of which “the enemies of Egypt” were the only beneficiaries.
The grand imam of al-Azhar, Egypt’s 1,000-year-old centre of Islamic learning, said the attack was intended to destabilise the country.
Targeting of Coptic Christians continues
The Coptic church said it had received news of the killing of its “martyrs” with pain and sorrow.
Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s population of 92 million, have been the subject of a series of deadly attacks in recent months.
About 70 have been killed in bomb attacks on churches in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta since December.
Those attacks were claimed by Islamic State.
Catholic pontiff’s two-day visit is aimed at fostering peace between the Muslim and Christian-minority community.
28 Apr 2017 16:04 GMT
Pope Francis said violence cannot be committed in the name of God, in a speech at a Muslim-Christian conference in Egypt.
The 80-year-old touched down at Cairo airport on Friday before he was ushered in a car to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Francis is in Egypt on a 27-hour visit to push for dialogue with Muslims and support the country’s embattled Christian minority that has suffered a series of attacks.
“Peace alone … is holy and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of God, for it would profane his name,” the Catholic pontiff said.
He also warned against rising populism.
“Demagogic forms of populism are on the rise. These certainly do not help to consolidate peace and stability,” he told the conference, organised by al-Azhar, the world’s foremost Sunni Islamic centre of learning.
“It is essential that we spare no effort in eliminating situations of poverty and exploitation, where extremism more easily takes root, and in blocking the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence.”
Acts that do not promote peace are “a gift to the proponents of radicalism and violence”, the pope said.
Amid high security, the pontiff is meeting with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Imam of the government-run Al-Azhar mosque and an Islamic philosophy professor, before meeting with Sisi and Pope Tawadros II, the head of Egypt’s Coptic Church.
Egypt has been under a state of emergency since two bombings in Coptic churches earlier this month that killed 45 people.
All of the country’s churches have been placed under additional protection because of the risk of another assault timed to coincide with Francis being in the country.
The most recent attacks have been claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, which has warned of further attacks against Egypt’s Coptic Christians and on the Vatican.
Armoured cars have been stationed in front of the presidential palace and security men have been posted every hundred yards along a 20km stretch between the airport and central Cairo.
The Pope is also going to meet Coptic Pope Tawadros II.
Egypt’s Copts, who make up about 10 percent of the country’s population of 92 million, are the Middle East’s largest Christian minority and one of the oldest.
The two men are due to walk together to the Coptic church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the heart of Cairo, which was hit by a bomb attack in December claimed by ISIL that killed 29 people.
The attack was the deadliest targeting the Coptic community since the 2011 suicide bombing that killed 23 people in Alexandria.
On Saturday, the pontiff will preside over a mass for the country’s small Catholic community, estimated to number around 272,000 spread across various rites.
Egypt has seen a wave of attacks against Christians since 2013, when the military led by Sisi overthrew President Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president.
For decades, Christians have complained of discrimination, saying they are denied top jobs in many fields, including academia and the security forces.
They have also accused the security forces of failing to do enough to protect them from “religious extremists”, a complaint that has persisted under Sisi’s rule.
Pope Francis said he wants his visit to Egypt “to be a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East, a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world” in a video message to the Egyptian people released on Tuesday ahead of his April 28-29 visit to the country.
An altar boy holds a candle during a service at Saint Cyrill Greek Catholic Church, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, April 23, 2017. Pope Francis is scheduled to make a two-day pilgrimage to Egypt this week. (Credit: Amr Nabil/AP.)
ROME — Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Egypt ahead of this weekend’s two day visit to the country, saying he hopes his trip “will make a fruitful contribution to interreligious dialogue with the followers of Islam and to ecumenical dialogue with the venerable and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church.”
On Friday, April 28, the pope will participate in an international peace conference taking place at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, which is the most prominent institution in the Sunni world.
Francis will join Pope Tawadros II, the head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, and Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of the worldwide Orthodox Communion (which does not include the Coptic Church), to present a united Christian front at the meeting, which Al-Azhar said was called to encourage “respect instead of rejecting each other, to live in peace instead of fighting, and to tolerate instead of being fanatical.”
On Saturday, April 29, Francis will celebrate Mass for the local Catholic community before flying home to Rome in the late afternoon.
In his video message, released on Tuesday, the pope said he was coming as “a friend, as a messenger of peace, and a pilgrim” to Egypt.
He noted Egypt was “the land where Patriarchs and Prophets lived, and where God, Benevolent and Merciful, the Almighty and One God, made his voice heard,” and was the place which “gave refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family as they fled the threats of King Herod.
“I would like this visit to be a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East, a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world, in which Egypt holds so important a place,” Francis said. “I would also hope that my visit will make a fruitful contribution to interreligious dialogue with the followers of Islam and to ecumenical dialogue with the venerable and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church.”
Francis also referenced a spate of violence which has left dozens of people dead over the past weeks in Egypt, including twin bombings at two churches in Tanta and Alexandria, which left at least 45 people dead.
Egyptian police later arrested 13 people who were planning attacks against Christians and public institutions in the country.
“Our world is torn by blind violence, a violence that has also struck the heart of your beloved land,” the pontiff said in his video message.
“Our world needs peace, love and mercy,” Francis continued, “it needs peacemakers, people who are free and who set others free, men and women of courage who can learn from the past in order to build the future, free of every form of prejudice. Our world needs people who can build bridges of peace, dialogue, fraternity, justice and humanity.”
Pope Francis will show his solidarity with the victims of anti-Christian violence on Friday, when he and Tawadros will visit the church of Sts. Peter and Paul, which had been bombed during a Mass in December 2016, leaving 24 people dead and dozens of others injured.
The Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, on Monday said that although heavy security is the “new normal,” Francis will not use an armored car during his visit to Egypt.
Vatican City (AFP) – Pope Francis is to visit Cairo next month for talks with the grand imam of the capital’s famed Al-Azhar mosque, but also to show solidarity with Coptic Christians targeted by violence in Egypt.
The pontiff, co-invited by Egypt’s president for the April 28-29 visit, had hosted Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb at the Vatican last May, in a landmark meeting with one of Islam’s top clerics.
That encounter was the culmination of a steady improvement in a relationship that had broken down because of a series of spats under Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI.
The current pope has made interfaith dialogue and reconciliation a leading theme of his pontificate and has also overseen an improvement in relations with the Orthodox and Protestant wings of christianity.
The Argentine pope has a long-standing invitation to visit Egypt, issued by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he met Francis at the Vatican in 2014.
The pope will meet both the president and the grand imam, the Egyptian presidency said in a statement.
It added that “this important visit will contribute to reinforcing the message of peace as well as the spirit of tolerance and humanity’s dialogue between all the religions and the rejection of… terrorism and fanaticism”.
Francis will become the second Roman Catholic pope to visit Egypt, following John Paul II’s historic trip there in February 2000.
Relations were derailed under Benedict after rows over a 2006 speech in which he was seen as having linked Islam to violence and 2011 comments condemning an attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria which Al-Azhar denounced as meddling in Egypt’s affairs.
– Suicide attack –
Nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 92-million strong population belong to the Coptic community in a country where Sunni Muslims make up the vast majority.
A suicide bomb attack on December 11, claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, killed 29 people in the Coptic church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
The church is next to the Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral — the seat of Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II — which Francis will visit during the trip.
President Sisi condemned the attack, calling it cowardly and declared three days of national mourning. The attack was the deadliest targeting the Coptic community since the January 1, 2011 suicide bombing which killed 23 people in Alexandria.Since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, the Sinai peninsula has been hit by almost daily jihadist attacks above all aimed at the police and army.
IS called in a December video for attacks on Coptic Christians in Sinai, in particular in the town of El-Arish in the north of the peninsula.
Seven Coptic Christians have been killed since, while dozens of families have fled the region.
The Cairo visit has been carefully organised by French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, an experience diplomat and energetic promoter of dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and Islam.
As head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, he participated in a February 22 joint seminary with Al-Azhar, the first since 2011.
The theme of the seminary was the role of the Al-Azhar mosque and the Vatican in fighting fanaticism, extremism and violence.
Egyptian Coptic Catholic bishops visited the Vatican in February and had extensive discussions with Francis about their community’s concerns.
“The government helped find housing for some families and we rented apartments for the rest,” Father Kyrillos Ibrahim told DPA news agency from Ismailia on Sunday.
Each of the 90 families includes on average five members, according to him.
“It is hard to estimate if there will be more families coming, it depends how bad the situation is. We hope this is a temporary situation,” Ibrahim said.
Luggage, boxes of food and newly displaced people were arriving throughout Sunday at Ismailia’s main youth hostel where authorities have put up 45 families.
Many rights activists say the displacement is a clear sign the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has failed to provide a minimum of security for Sinai’s Coptic Christians.
The government only agreed to put up the fleeing Christians in government housing in Ismailia after pressure on social media, which they underline as another disturbing sign.
Nabil Shukrallah of Ismailia’s Evangelical Church said the families arrive scared and in need of supplies, which are being stockpiled at the church via donations from several parishes.
They are then transported to be housed in and around the city, in private homes and, now, also accommodation provided by the government.
“They’re exhausted, with urgent needs for food and children’s clothing,” he said, as one father carried off a sick infant to be evacuated by ambulance.
“They’re terrified of the violence and brutality of the terrorists.”
Largely desert, the Sinai Peninsula has seen repeated attacks from armed groups, mainly targeting security forces, since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.
The flight from Sinai has intensified after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group released a video last week threatening to carry out attacks against Christians in Egypt.
It described Christians as “infidels” empowering the West against Muslims.
The area’s few Christians had been trickling out but the departures picked up after fighters killed a Christian plumber at home in front of his family on Thursday in El Arish.
At least 90 Coptic families have reached the Ismailia governorate [Ahmed Aboulenein/Reuters]
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. But Egypt’s ISIL affiliate is based in north Sinai and in December carried out a suicide bombing against a Cairo church.
The Cairo church bombing and the recent killings point to a shift in ISIL’s tactics in Egypt, with the group now also attacking Christian targets that are less well protected than military installations.
Before Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising, about 5,000 Christians lived in northern Sinai, but the number has since dwindled to fewer than 1,000, say priests and residents.
Egypt does not keep official statistics on the number of Christians in cities or across the country.
Pope Francis has condemned as “homicidal madness” recent deadly “fundamentalist-inspired” attacks around the world.
In a speech to the Vatican diplomatic corps, the pontiff called on religious leaders to reaffirm that “one can never kill in God’s name”.
He also warned that poverty served as fertile ground for radicalisation.
Scores of people died in jihadist attacks in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas in 2016.
“We are dealing with a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power,” the 80-year-old Argentine pontiff said on Monday.
“Hence I appeal to all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name.
“Fundamentalist terrorism is the fruit of a profound spiritual poverty, and often is linked to significant social poverty,” the Pope said. “It can only be fully defeated with the joint contribution of religious and political leaders.”
In July, months after deadly assaults in France and Belgium, Pope Francis warned that jihadist attacks in Europe was proof that “the world is at war”.
However, he stressed he did not mean a war of religions, but rather a conflict over “interests, money, resources”.
In a wide-ranging speech on Monday, Pope Francis also said that:
North Korea’s threats to test ballistic missiles were “particular disturbing” and could spark a “new nuclear arms race”
Europe was at a “decisive moment” in its history, and the “idea of Europe” should be based on a new humanism
Stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians should resume
International efforts to foster peace in a number of conflict-torn African countries must be intensified
Environment must be protected, backing a global deal clinched in Paris in 2015
Donald Trump’s victory demonstrates the media and commentariat are disconnected from voters. Almost without exception they failed to anticipate the presidential election outcome — and had little influence on it. Their message that Trump was unfit for presidency largely ignored.
Australia’s political media and commentariat are also out of touch. Listening to them you’d think Australians are preoccupied with gay marriage, offshore detention, carbon emissions and identity politics. Most are preoccupied with their families, their homes, their jobs, the monthly bills and their kids’ education and job prospects.
They care about the economy and national debt. They want to live in a safe society where Australia’s way of life is valued and respected.
There’s a growing disconnect between the views expressed by the media and commentariat and those of many Australians, with commonsense often dismissed as extreme, ill-informed, even bigoted. Here are some examples.
Our biggest education challenge is performance declining against global benchmarks. Demanding more education funding as the solution is misconceived. It’s been happening despite substantial education funding increases. Something’s wrong. Australian schools should be the best in the world, not 28th behind Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, the education issue dominating political news has been the Safe Schools controversy. It’s understandable why parents are concerned. Some content in Safe Schools and other school programs, frankly, beggars belief. Teachers shouldn’t be schooling children in gender fluidity or asking them to imagine or role-play different sexual orientations, or teaching them about exotic sex acts, or criticising “heteronormativity”.
Governments should shut this nonsense down and focus on improving academic performance.
That’s not homophobic. It’s commonsense.
The world has more than 60 million refugees, around three times Australia’s population, with many others desperate to move to Western nations for economic opportunity.
Allowing people to stay in Australia if they make it to our shores Hunger-Games style (or acquiescing when they do) is cruel and irresponsible.
During the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era more than 1000 people drowned and detainee numbers skyrocketed from less than 500 to more than 10,000.
Refusing to settle asylum seekers in Australia who arrive by boat is tough and unrelenting but it saves lives.
Nations must uphold their borders to maintain their sovereignty, potentially their survival. My ancestors learned this the hard way. Border security isn’t racist or an embarrassment. It’s commonsense.
Australians have a strong record of embracing immigrants in their communities and in their families, and most immigrants embrace Australia and our way of life.
But at the moment Australians are seeing something we’ve rarely seen before.
A small minority of Muslim migrants and/or their descendants reject our way of life and instead want us to embrace aspects of theirs which go against our laws, customs and culture — women covering their faces, refusing to stand in court, Sharia law regulating divorces, polygamy and even forced child “marriages”.
A smaller minority support terrorist causes and are plotting to kill us. That’s not acceptable to most Australians, including most Arab and Muslim Australians. Yes, it’s only a tiny minority but their attitudes and actions are divisive and dangerous and must be acknowledged and confronted.
Every Australian should treat others with decency, follow our laws and institutions. This isn’t racist or Islamophobic. It’s commonsense.
People of all societies through the ages were expected to contribute. Families and charities supported those who couldn’t. Modern Western governments introduced welfare to help people on hard times get back on their feet, not provide an optional life pathway. Governments shouldn’t pay people who refuse to work. If there are jobs picking fruit, selling hamburgers, labouring or cleaning, unemployed people should do them or lose benefits.
I hope the federal government’s welfare reform plans go beyond tough talk and become tough action. Making people take available work isn’t cruel. Sit-down money is cruel. Welfare reform is commonsense.
Politicians who articulate these kinds of opinions are often branded heartless and bigoted by the progressive/Left, cheered on by prominent members of the political media and commentariat.
It’s rare to hear centrist politicians speak as bluntly as I just have. Centrist Labor tends to pander to the progressive/Left. Centrist Liberals tiptoe. In doing so they leave a vacuum for extremists and populists.
Trump, Brexit and One Nation’s resurgence deliver two key lessons.
First, politicians who speak directly to voters about what voters care about can prevail, regardless of the media and commentariat.
Second, if centrists are unwilling or afraid to embrace commonsense views, voters will turn to extremists and populists, however offensive.
The first centrist politician who embraces commonsense with plain-speaking, ignoring the political class and dealing honestly and firmly with issues Australians care about, will dominate the ballot box. Warren Mundine is chair of the Prime Minister’s indigenous Advisory Council and a former ALP national president