The appalling attack on a local soldier by militant extremists, which took place in Woolwich, south London, this afternoon, occurred only a short walk from the BOC Church Secretariat. Abba Seraphim was home at the time and noticed the sound of helicopters overhead. In a statement this evening he said that our prayers go out for the victim and his friends and family as well as his colleagues at the Woolwich Barracks. In an area where local people have worked hard to promote good community relations among a diverse population, this must appear as a significant setback. He hoped, therefore, that religious and community leaders, of all traditions, would be absolute in their condemnation of this brutal murder and unequivocal in their rejection of violence – both in their language and their actions – as only this can restore trust and respect, which the evil perpetrators were clearly intent on destroying.
Traditionally the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church meets in Cairo on the Eve of the Feast of Pentecost in plenary session. However, this year it has been cancelled at short notice and Pope Shenouda will remain in Cleveland, Ohio, where he has gone for routine medical treatment.
More Disturbing Events from Cairo
As Abba Seraphim had booked his flights some time ago he planned to go ahead with his visit. However, after a few weeks of relative calm following the Revolution, there were two recent incidents in central Cairo which give cause for concern. In one a female reporter from Coptic TV went down to Tahrir Square, where a group of young men surrounded her and attempted to rape her. When she desperately called for help a police officer arrived and shot into the air to disperse the crowd. The criminals took both his gun and his phone away and beat him almost to death. On the same day, the Ezbekia Police Station (near the main railway station) was burnt down following rumours that a police officer had killed a microbus driver. As a result of these incidents, which indicate a potential resurgence in violence, Abba Seraphim was advised against travelling to Cairo at the present and, acting on this advice, reluctantly cancelled his planned trip to Egypt. These incidents will probably not be reported by the European media.
Abba Seraphim asks everyone to continue in prayer for Egypt and especially for the Christians there.