Coptic Christians fear new cathedral in Egypt may become target for terrorists

(Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Women pass by the Coptic church that was bombed on Sunday in Tanta, Egypt, April 10, 2017.

Coptic Christians have expressed concern that the new cathedral in Egypt would become a huge target for members of the Islamic State terror group.

The Nativity of Christ Cathedral, said to be the biggest church in the Middle East, will be dedicated by Egyptian leaders on Coptic Christmas, which will be celebrated on Jan. 7 this year.

According to Ahram Online, the Midnight Mass at the church will be attended by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Minister of Defence Sedki Sobhi, as well as other senior government officials and foreign ambassadors.

The new cathedral, located in the New Administrative Capital now under construction 28 miles east of Cairo, fulfills the promise Al-Sisi made last year when he attended Christmas Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mark in Abbasiya.

Pope Tawadros II, who oversaw and approved the original design and modifications for the cathedral, described its completion as an "unprecedented historical event."

"The president made a promise when he came to offer season's greetings in 2017 and he has fulfilled it. We will be praying in the new cathedral, which has been named the Nativity of Christ, this Christmas. Never before has a church of this beauty and size been built. I pray that 2018 brings all the best for Egypt," he said.

Some Copts, however, shared their fears that terrorists could strike them as they celebrate Christmas this year, and that the new cathedral would be an obvious target.

"We do not know what will happen on the holiday," Sayed Riad, a car salesman in Helwan, outside of Cairo, said, as reported by USA Today.

Coptic Christians, which comprise about 10 percent of Egypt's majority Muslim population, have been targeted in several terrorist attacks in the last year.

The most recent attack took place last week when eight Coptic Christians were gunned down at a Cairo church.

ISIS, which claimed responsibility for last week's attack, has stated early last year that the Coptic community was among its "favorite prey."

Egypt's Interior Ministry has deployed 230,000 security forces to protect Egypt's 2,626 churches in an effort to thwart further attacks.

Maged George, 56, a cosmetics manufacturer who sits on several executive Coptic church committees, said that the threats of attacks would not deter him from attending the Mass at the cathedral.

"I will go to the Mass at the cathedral and send my children to pray there," he said, adding that the new church will "convey a positive message about our citizenship and partnership with fellow Egyptians."

Coptic leaders noted that they have received numerous requests from worshippers who wanted to attend the inauguration Mass and each has been closely vetted. "The security procedures for attendance are very strict," said George.

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