On Sunday, one of the most important holidays of the Christian year turned violent in Egypt, as two explosions at Egyptian churches killed more than 30 people, according to The Associated Press. As Coptic Christians gathered in the Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria to celebrate Palm Sunday, the bombings caused chaos and disruption. Even into the afternoon in Egypt, it was not clear who would claim responsibility for the holy-day violence.
The first explosion occurred in Tanta, a city of more than 400,000 people situated north of Cairo in the Nile River Delta. According to CNN, a bomb had been planted under a seat in the main prayer hall of St. George Coptic church. The resulting explosion reportedly killed 25 people and wounded 60 others.
A second explosion occurred in Alexandria, a historic port city with more than 4.5 million residents. Reporting from CNN, based on state media reports, classified the Alexandria explosion as a "suicide bomb attack" that occurred outside the Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral. That incident reportedly killed at least six people, bringing the overall death toll to 31 as of Sunday afternoon in Egypt. The Associated Press later reported that at least 37 people had died and 100 others had been wounded as a result of the two attacks.
Bombs tear through two Egyptian churches on Palm Sunday, killing at least 37 people and wounding 100. https://t.co/jmjRuO7ecL— The Associated Press (@AP) April 9, 2017
Although it was not immediately clear who was responsible for Sunday's attacks, it was not the first time that Christians had been targeted by violence in Egypt. Last December, a bombing interrupted Sunday Mass at Cairo's main Coptic Christian church, killing at least 25 people.
In both cases, the bombings occurred during important seasons in the Christian church. In December, many Christians, including Egypt's Coptics, celebrate Advent as the season leading up to Christmas. On Sunday, churchgoers in Egypt's Christian cathedrals had been celebrating Palm Sunday, the beginning of the church's Holy Week, which culminates with Easter Sunday.
With 90 percent of the population practicing Islam, Christians are a minority in Egypt. Arabic is the country's official language, and Islamic law is part of the country's complex government. In other words, it's not always easy to be a Christian in Egypt.
Following Sunday's attacks, Pope Francis, the global leader of the Catholic Church, expressed his condolences, asking God "to convert the hearts of those who spread terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make, and traffic in, weapons." The attacks in Egypt add to the already-heightened global concern for violence following Friday's attack in Stockholm, Sweden.