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The violence that has hit many parts of the world for years continued unabated this year. Holy Week this year was a particularly grievous one for Egypt and its Coptic Christians. Last Palm Sunday, 49 were killed and over a hundred were wounded when Islamic State extremists bombed two churches in Alexandria and in Tanta.
The Coptic Christians are among the oldest Christian believers in the world, founded around 42 AD by John Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Bible. While the rest of the world’s Christians divided in the East-West Schism of 1054 and, six centuries later, further split in the Reformation, the Coptic Christians kept to themselves mostly in Egypt but they are also found today in Libya, Sudan, and Australia.
The Coptic Christians of Egypt are the latest victims of the Islamic State, an extremist movement that is active today in the Middle East, where it has taken over wide areas in Syria and Iraq. It has inspired jihadist attacks in the United States and in Europe. It is said to be planning to set up a regional base in Mindanao where it appears to have gained adherents among members of the Abu Sayyaf.
In the face of all this violence, we hear the call of Pope Francis in his Holy Week message, calling the world’s attention to the need to be one with and to help all those who are suffering in various ways in the world today – “from slave labor, from family tragedies, from diseases,” from “wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike; men and women who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded.
Today the Christian world celebrates Easter Sunday, the culmination of the Holy Week. The week began with Palm Sunday, went through the gloom of Maundy Thursday and the crucifixion on Good Friday. But it did not end there. Holy Week culminates with the joy of the Resurrection today, Easter Sunday.
We join Pope Francis and all other men and women of goodwill in celebrating this day of victory over violence and death, of goodwill, and of peace. War may continue in Syria and Iraq, terrorism threatens in the US and Europe, nuclear threats persist in East Asia, but the hope for peace will always be with us.