News / USA

Virginia Coptic Church Marks Christmas Eve Amid Tight Security

Coptic Christmas is less joyful this year for the congregation of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Virginia
Coptic Christmas is less joyful this year for the congregation of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Virginia
Mohamed Elshinnawi

Coptic Christians in the United States began their Christmas holiday Thursday night with an extra measure of police protection, following new anti-Christian threats by Mideast Islamist groups. At the St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Virginia, American-Egyptian Copts took part in the traditional Christmas Eve mass with reserved joy, mindful of the New Year’s Day church bombing in Egypt and the growing specter of anti-Christian violence.

Hundreds of the faithful gathered - as they do every  Christmas Eve - to begin the January 7 Coptic observance of Christ’s birth.  But there was nothing normal about the extra security around and inside the St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church Thursday night.  

Adel Miseeha, the church spokesman, said, "In coordination with local police we’re watching all events and we’re having additional security people as well as adding our own security people to monitor anybody coming in or leaving."

Watch Peter Fedynsky's Companion TV Report:

The Coptic community is on high alert worldwide after a bomb killed 23 people outside a Coptic church in Egypt on New Year’s Day. The attack followed messages on websites maintained by Islamic extremists calling for attacks on Coptic churches everywhere. The terrorist act in Egypt and subsequent anti-Christian threats have dampened the joy in this year’s Christmas celebration.

Short Video of the Christmas Mass at St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax, Virginia:

Haleem Meawad is a member of the board of Coptic Solidarity, a private, American-based organization that works to support the Coptic minority in Egypt. "As you might guess it, we are celebrating this year with heavy hearts of sadness. Not because of our own loss, the loss of our Coptic community, but also sadness of what’s happening in our mother country. All the indications are not very promising right now," he said.

U.S. law enforcement agencies took the threats against American Coptic churches very seriously and directed local police departments to provide extra protection to churches in their jurisdictions.  Meawad says Egyptian American Copts attending services Thursday night in Virginia appreciated those precautions.

Senior Coptic Priest conducting Christmas mass in Virginia
Senior Coptic Priest conducting Christmas mass in Virginia

"The website of al Qaeda, they posted so many threats and they said plainly that all Copts are legitimate - of course, that’s their terminology - legitimate targets wherever they are, whether they’re in Egypt or outside of Egypt.  So yes, this church is no exception. It is one of the targets. If they have a way to do any damage or to hurt us anywhere, they will do it. We know that for sure," he said.

Against this backdrop of fear and anxiety, the Coptic Church sermon conducted by Father Anthony Meseeh focused on reassuring the congregation, and urging them to remain calm and joyful. "Your joy no one will take from you, no one can take your joy because no one can touch you inside. Is it possible to have sorrow and joy? Yes. Is it possible to have hatred all around you and you still be full of love? Yes, that is what is our mission in life," he said.

Church-goer Mona Mikhail said she felt sad to pray under the protection of security forces, because she would rather pray under the protection of God. "We celebrate Christmas with great sadness of course today. We are not happy because what happened. We wished that the start of the New Year was much peaceful and brings joy to all of us. But I am sure that this church and all of us are in God’s hands protecting us so I really didn’t have any fear," she said.

Members of the Egyptian-American Coptic community have called on the Egyptian government to be more diligent in protecting the civil rights of the nation’s Coptic minority.

Some Muslim and Coptic Egyptian-Americans are joining a candlelight vigil Friday in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Washington. They plan to show solidarity with Egyptians holding similar vigils all over Egypt Friday to honor the victims of the New Year’s Day church attack.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs