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Security Increased Around European Coptic Churches

Father Girguis Lucas uses his cellphone before addressing reporters, inside the Coptic church Sainte Marie Saint Marc of Chatenay-Malabry, south of Paris, 04 Jan 2011.

Authorities are reinforcing security around Coptic churches across Europe, after threats they will be the next terrorist targets, following a New Year's bombing attack outside a Coptic church in Egypt.

Police have stepped up security around Coptic churches in France, after a parishioner alerted authorities of an Islamist website threatening two Paris-area churches and dozens of others around the world. Fears have grown after a New Year's bomb killed 21 people outside a church in Alexandria, Egypt.

France has an estimated 45,000 Coptic Christians, the highest population in Europe. At the Coptic church in the Paris suburb of Deuil-la-Barre, Father Moussa Naguib said police had begun providing protection, although his parishioners have not been directly threatened.

"They're not really worried, but they all have severe pain because of what happened in Alexandria," he said. "One of the families that used to come to my church has relatives who died in this attack."

He says many of his parishioners have family in Alexandria. The church prays for the bombing victims during its services.

Father Moussa says he worries about the reaction following the attack.

"It is meant to worsen relations between Christians and Muslims," he said. "I am here now in Paris, but all my life was in Egypt, in Cairo, especially. I studied there. I had no trouble with any Muslims. I had friends."

Authorities elsewhere in Europe are also concerned about their Coptic communities. According to reports, the Internet threats target Coptic churches in the Netherlands, Sweden, Britain, and Germany.

Canadian authorities have also reinforced security around Coptic churches, following the publication of names and addresses of 100 parishes around Canada on an Islamist website.

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