Egypt on high alert for Christmas

In Egypt, Catholics and Protestants celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, while Copts mark the occasion on Jan. 7. 
Updated 25 December 2018

Egypt on high alert for Christmas

  • In Egypt, Catholics and Protestants celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25
  • The Coptic Christmas is a national holiday in Egypt

CAIRO: Egyptian Christians marked Christmas this year with a mixture of joy and apprehension, as the Interior Ministry issued a high security alert and deployed forces in strategic areas and churches nationwide.

“It’s that time of year when our alertness and efforts significantly increase. I have continuous shifts until mid-January,” a police officer in Cairo told Arab News.

In Egypt, Catholics and Protestants celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, while Copts mark the occasion on Jan. 7. 

A day ahead of the Christmas celebrations, many Christians in Egypt take time off to prepare for the festivities. 

Brig. Gen. Khaled Okasha, a member of the Supreme Council for Combating Terrorism, said there is very tight security in place to thwart potential terrorist acts.

Fady Atef, a Copt who works as a salesman in Cairo, told Arab News: “We’re ready for the celebrations without fear. We don’t fear terrorism. We celebrate Christmas and we use faith to overcome fear.”

He added: “I think all Christians will go to church without fear. We trust our security apparatus and we feel secure.”

But on social media, other Copts expressed fear and anger about the loss of loved ones in previous years. 

Some blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, some blamed foreign enemies, and others blamed the government for failing to provide adequate security.

“Fear and threat, this is how we feel when we approach such holy days,” said one Copt on social media.

Last month, terrorists ambushed a bus carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery in Minya governorate, killing seven and wounding 12.

In December 2017, two terrorists attacked the Mar Mina Church in the city of Helwan, killing nine people and injuring 10.

In December 2016, an attack on the St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Cairo killed 27 people.

The Coptic Christmas feast ends a 43-day fast that begins in November. During the fast, Copts abstain from eating any food that comes from animals.

The Coptic Christmas is a national holiday in Egypt. According to government statistics, Christians make up 10 percent of the total population of nearly 100 million.


Mosques in Iran to resume daily prayers, president says

Updated 7 sec ago

Mosques in Iran to resume daily prayers, president says

  • Rouhani also said on state television that the hours of shopping malls will be extended
  • He did not say when they are due to reopen
DUBAI: Government employees went back to work in Iran on Saturday and President Hassan Rouhani said mosques are to resume daily prayers throughout the country, even though some areas are seeing high levels of coronavirus infections.
Rouhani also said on state television that the hours of shopping malls, which had been allowed to open only until 6 p.m., will be extended, a further step in the government’s plans to ease coronavirus restrictions.
“Doors to mosques across the country will open to public for daily prayers,” Rouhani said, adding that social distancing and other health protocols should be observed. He did not say when they are due to reopen.
Authorities are taking tougher measures to ensure that health regulations are observed, including barring commuters not wearing masks from buses and metro trains, Iranian media reported.
Alireza Zali, head of the government-led Coronavirus Taskforce of Tehran, told state TV the situation in the capital was “still not favorable,” adding that the easing of restrictions should be accompanied by “more serious observance” of regulations.
As of Friday, Iran had recorded 146,668 infections, with 7,677 deaths.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said Friday there had been no deaths in the previous 24 hours in 15 of the country’s provinces and one in each of five provinces.
The provinces of Khuzestan in the southwest, and Baluchistan in the southeast of the country, have been declared “red” areas where there are still high levels of infection.
The health ministry has divided the country into white, yellow and red areas based on the number of infections and deaths.