Egypt’s El-Sisi attends Christmas Mass amid tight security

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi speaks near Coptic Pope Tawadros II (L) during a Christmas Eve mass at the Nativity of Christ Cathedral in Cairo on Jan. 6, 2018.(AFP)
Updated 06 January 2018

Egypt’s El-Sisi attends Christmas Mass amid tight security

CAIRO: In a show of solidarity with Egypt’s embattled Christians, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi Saturday made a symbolic appearance at an Orthodox Christmas Mass in a new cathedral as tens of thousands of soldiers and police deployed outside churches across the country in anticipation of possible attacks by Islamic militants.
“We, with the grace of God, are offering a message of peace and love from here, not just to Egyptians or to the region, but to the entire world,” El-Sisi told a jubilant congregation while standing next to Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic pontiff.
“I always say this and repeat it: Destruction, ruin and killing will never be able to defeat goodness, construction, love and peace. It’s impossible,” said El-Sisi, a Muslim. “Pay attention, you are our family. You are part of us. We are one and no one will ever drive a wedge between us.”
In Cairo and across much of the Muslim majority country, soldiers in full combat gear joined the police in protecting churches, most of which are now equipped with metal detectors. Worshippers undergo body searches at church entrances. Some churches have had their surrounding streets sealed off, with sidewalks barricaded to control pedestrian movement.
The tight security across Egypt is a precaution against possible attacks by Islamic militants who have specifically targeted Christians since December 2016, staging a series of bombings, killing about 100 people.
Orthodox Christians are the overwhelming majority of Egypt’s Christians, who account for about 10 percent of the population, or nearly 10 million. They celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7.
The new cathedral in which Mass was held has been named Christ’s Nativity and is located in Egypt’s new Administrative Capital, a 45-billion-dollar, under-construction project some 45 kilometers (28 miles) east of Cairo. The Christmas Mass will consecrate the new cathedral and mark the first time in living memory that the liturgy is not held at St. Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of the orthodox church in central Cairo.
The new cathedral can house up to 9,000 worshippers and is touted as the largest in the Middle East.
El-Sisi arrived shortly after nightfall, as silver lights twinkled on the cathedral’s dome piercing the surrounding darkness. A general-turned-president, El-Sisi is viewed by most of Egypt’s Christians as their protector and ally in the face of extremists. He led the military’s 2013 ouster of an Islamist president whose divisive rule alarmed many Christians fearful over their future in the country.
The cathedral’s bells tolled as Tawadros received El-Sisi outside the cathedral and they walked inside together. Women ululated in jubilation and many in the congregation waved Egyptian flags or threw white rose buds at the smiling president, who waved back and shook hands with some of them.
The consecration of the new cathedral attracted the attention of Pope Francis, the head of the Roman catholic Church who visited to Egypt last year and spoke at length of the need for tolerance between followers of Islam and Christianity.
“I’d like to express in a special way my closeness to Orthodox Coptic Christians, and I cordially greet my brother Tawadros II in the glorious occasion of the consecration of the Cathedral of Cairo,” Pope Francis said in remarks to the faithful after celebrating an Epiphany Mass Saturday in St. Peter’s Basilica.
But not everyone was as positive about the new cathedral or holding Christmas Mass there.
Ishak Ibrahim, a prominent expert on Christian affairs in Egypt, said in a post on his Facebook account that moving Mass to an “isolated” spot projected a “disappointing” message.
“Christianity never commanded us to build churches so we can boast about their size, beauty or to accord legitimacy to the sultan,” he wrote. “Those in the villages , meanwhile, are hurt and see their churches ... shuttered,” wrote Ibrahim, alluding to frequent instances of Muslim mobs in rural Egypt reacting violently to the construction or repair of churches, or the use of private Christian homes as places of worship.
The latest such incident took place last month, when an angry Muslim mob stormed an unlicensed church in a village south of Cairo, ransacking the facility. Christian rights activists point to such incidents as evidence of the government’s inability to protect Christians, particularly outside big cities.
The latest deadly attack against Christians was on Dec. 29, when a militant opened fire outside a suburban Cairo church, killing at least nine people.
A local affiliate of the extremist Daesh group has claimed responsibility for most attacks on Christians. The group is spearheading an insurgency centered in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula but also targeting the country’s mainland.


Hezbollah responds to Netanyahu with a media tour of steel factory

Updated 37 min 29 sec ago

Hezbollah responds to Netanyahu with a media tour of steel factory

  • The local and international media accompanied the official of media relations in Hezbollah

BEIRUT: A few hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hezbollah, during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, of having "secret headquarters in the southern suburbs of Beirut," the party organized a media tour of the Jnah area that Netanyahu referred to, to deny the information he provided.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah responded to Netanyahu in a live speech on Tuesday night, and called on the air the media to tour the facility that Netanyahu talked about and said: "We do not place our missiles, neither in the Beirut port, nor near a gas station, nor between homes, and we know." Well, where should we place our missiles? "

The local and international media accompanied the official of media relations in Hezbollah, Muhammad Afif, to the facility that Netanyahu talked about in Jnah area and it turned out to be a steel-cutting factory and said: "We are not scouts for the enemy and we do not provide him with information, but this tour aims to reveal that these facilities have no connection with storage Weapons of resistance. "

The media tour accompanied by supporters of the party chanting for Nasrallah, during which Muhammad Afif said: "The enemy's claims are false, and this industrial facility has existed for decades."

The owner of the industrial facility in the Janah, who came in hastily at night to open the plant to the media, said: "This is a steel-cutting factory. We have workers and we work normally. Our doors are always open to everyone, and there are no missiles in it as you can see."

This plant is located in the industrial area of ​​Jnah, on the administrative borders of Beirut. Netanyahu had said of it that has "missile depots a meter away from gas depots near Beirut airport."

In information released by its spokesman, Avichai Adrai, the Israeli army identified two additional sites, which he claimed "Hezbollah used to manufacture parts for precision-guided missiles."

“One of the two sites is an underground facility built under four seven-story residential buildings in which 70 families live in the Al-Laylaki neighborhood east of Beirut International Airport, and next to it is a church and a medical center, and the second facility is under a complex of five residential buildings in which about 50 families live in Choueifat, located about 90 meters from a mosque.