In the wake of the Palm Sunday bombings in Egypt April 9 and the suspected chemical attack in Syria April 4, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada today asked Anglicans to pray for the victims, their grieving families and churches who continue bear witness to their faith in the midst of conflict.
“All of this carnage and chaos marked the beginning of liturgies remembering the Lord’s Passion and Death,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz noted in a statement. “This will be a very difficult Holy Week for Coptic Christians, not only in Egypt, where there will be multiple funerals, but throughout the world as they mourn the dead and pray for those wounded and traumatized by this vicious attack.”
Forty-four people were killed and more than 120 others wounded when bombs were detonated at St. George’s Coptic Church in Tanta, north of Cairo, and at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria. ISIS, the radical Islamist militant group, has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
In Syria, multiple media sources have reported that more than 70 people have died, including 20 children, after a suspected nerve gas attack in the village of Khan Sheikhoun.
“In our time in history, terrible crimes of humanity are claiming more and more innocent victims,” said Hiltz. “Last week, the world witnessed horrific images of Syrian children foaming at the mouth, convulsing and dying in the arms of their sobbing mothers and fathers. Their deaths were brought on by yet another round of the use of chemical weapons in the long and bloody conflict that has savaged Syria for six years, claiming the lives of 400,00 people.”
Hiltz urged the faithful to pray “for the departed, that they may be received into the arms of Christ’s mercy,” and to pray for those who grieve and “all who are in spiritual turmoil at this time, that they may find consolation in the sufferings of Christ and hope in his triumph over the forces of evil and death.”
He also asked for prayers for Coptic Pope Tawadros II and his church, for the leaders of other churches in Egypt, including Archbishop Mouneer Anis, primate of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.
Quoting the late theologian Stephen Reynolds, perhaps best known for compiling the book For All the Saints: Prayers and Readings for Saints’ Days, Hiltz underscored the importance of remembering and standing up for victims of atrocities.
Hiltz said that in his reflection on “The Holy Innocents” of Herod’s fury and rage, Reynolds had noted that “we live in an age of atrocities, in a time infamous for the slaughter of innocent bystanders who never chose the causes for which they have been made to die.”
When the innocents are remembered, Reynolds wrote, “We perform an office for them and all other victims of massacre. We become their voice and cry out for God to remember the slaughtered—and to remember them for the sake of Christ, himself the great innocent who was crucified by the ‘rulers of this age.’ ”