Minya

Twisting Ramadan: Some big newsrooms failed to note timing of attack on Copts in Egypt (updated)

Twisting Ramadan: Some big newsrooms failed to note timing of attack on Copts in Egypt (updated)

What can we say? How long must we sing this song?

Once again there has been another attack in Egypt that has left scores of Coptic Christians dead and wounded. Currently, the death toll is at 26 or 28, depending on the source of the information.

Once again there are the same basic themes to cover. The ancient Copts -- the vast majority are part of Coptic Orthodoxy -- make up about 10 percent of the population of Egypt. They are the largest body of Christian believers left in the Middle East, part of a religious tradition that emerged in the time of the first disciples of Jesus.

Once again, Egyptian officials have renewed their vows to help protect the Copts. Once again, reporters tried to find a way to list all of the recent terrorist attacks on the Copts -- a list so long that it threatens to dominate basic news reports.

So what now? Why now? Here is the top of the Reuters report -- circulated by Religion News Service, as well -- which caught my attention because of its early focus on what may, tragically, be a crucial fact.

In this case, the "when" and the "why" factors in that old journalism formula -- "who," "what," "when," "where," "why" and "how" -- may be one in the same. Read carefully.

CAIRO (Reuters) -- Gunmen attacked a group of Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in southern Egypt on Friday, killing 28 people and wounding 25 others, and many children were among the victims, Health Ministry officials said.
Eyewitnesses said masked men opened fire after stopping the Christians, who were traveling in a bus and other vehicles. Local television channels showed a bus apparently raked by gunfire and smeared with blood. Clothes and shoes could be seen lying in and around the bus.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan. It followed a series of church bombings claimed by Islamic State.

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A question for journalists right now: Why don't Coptic Christians hold funerals during Holy Week?

A question for journalists right now: Why don't Coptic Christians hold funerals during Holy Week?

It may seem somewhat strange for GetReligion to feature a religion-news "think piece" during the middle of the week.

However, this is not an ordinary week. For churches around the world this is Holy Week -- this year on both the liturgical calendars of Eastern and Western Christianity.

Then again, this is certainly not an ordinary Holy Week for believers in the ancient Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt. And how will that affect the celebration of Pascha (Easter in the West), the most important feast day in Christianity?

The bombings on Palm Sunday (click here for earlier GetReligion coverage) have led to a sad, yet totally understandable, decision by Coptic leaders in part of Egypt. Here is the top of an Associated Press report:

CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian churches, in the southern city of Minya, said on Tuesday that they will not hold Easter celebrations in mourning for 45 Coptic Christians killed this week in twin bombings of churches in two cities during Palm Sunday ceremonies.
The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said that celebrations will only be limited to the liturgical prayers "without any festive manifestations."
Minya province has the highest Coptic Christian population in the country. Copts traditionally hold Easter church prayers on Saturday evening and then spend Easter Sunday on large meals and family visits.

Yes, the family festivities are important. However, this also means that there will be no dramatic liturgical processions through public streets in the dark night of Good Friday. There will be no processions with candles through those same streets around major churches in the final dramatic moments before midnight, as Holy Saturday turns into Pascha (Easter), with the constant singing of hymns proclaiming, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in tombs bestowing life!"

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