Egyptians attend mass at the St Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the Bani Mazar province, in the Minya governorate. Mohamed El Shahed / AFP
CAIRO - 7 January 2017: Amid tight security measures and overwhelming joy and happiness of the Evangelical community of Bani Mazar village in Minya governorate, Upper Egypt, the Evangelical Church held the Coptic Christmas Mass on Sunday.
Dozens of statesmen, officials and politicians attended the mass, expressing their happiness about the reopening of the Bani Mazar church which was set on fire and damaged by pro-Brotherhood elements four years ago.
Eastern Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7 according to the Coptic calendar. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and other top state officials witnessed the Christmas mass for the third time in a row.
In January 2017, Sisi commissioned the construction of the country’s largest mosque and church in the New Administrative Capital, where today’s mass was performed, to become symbols of coexistence and national unity.
The Nativity of Christ Cathedral would be the largest church in the Middle East, with a capacity to accommodate 8,200 worshippers.
The Evangelical Church of Beni Mazar was completely destroyed during an unprecedented spate of violence that erupted following the dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Rabaa and Nahda squares.
MB-related rioters carried out attacks against Coptic churches, businesses and houses after the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.
On August 14, 2013, security forces set out to disperse the Muslim Brotherhood sit-in in Nasr City’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square, along with another sit-in located in Nahda Square in Giza.
On September 30, the Evangelical Church of Beni Mazar was reopened, following great efforts exerted by the Egyptian armed forces to rebuild and restore the destroyed church.
“Sisi is keen on keeping freedom of worship, stressing that religion is a gift to all people and that he will do his best to protect this freedom,” said Head of the Evangelical Community in Egypt Andre Zaki during the reopening ceremony.