HUNDREDS of Coptic Orthodox families in Brisbane began Holy Week with heartfelt prayers for loved ones after deadly church bombings in Egypt.
“It is painful. It is tragedy. It is part of the pain that Jesus our Christ carried for us,” Egyptian-born Fr Bishoy Wassef, from St Mark and St George Coptic Orthodox Church, Strathpine, said.
“Now we pray, and we know the souls of the people who have been murdered.”
Coptic churches across Brisbane and the Gold Coast held daily prayer services during Holy Week.
Odette Tewfik, a social worker for the Egyptian community in Brisbane, said she knew personally the pain and worry about bombings and attacks on Egypt’s minority Coptic Orthodox community.
She arrived in Australia from Cairo in 1989, but her parents and brother remained there.
“It’s tearing your heart, especially when you see that one of them could be your relative, and it is the link between you and your original country,” Ms Tewfik said.
“They were praying. They’re not fighting.”
Ms Tewfik said her parents were praying in St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral last December when the chapel next to cathedral was bombed killing 29 people.
She said the persecution and fear felt by Coptic Orthodox Christians was growing.
“It’s a terrible feeling, when the only peaceful place is the church, and now people are scared to send their children to Sunday school,” she said.
“Even when you are walking in the streets now, if you are wearing a cross, fanatics will spit in your face.”
Ms Tewfik believes the Australian Government should accept more immigrants from Egypt.
Fr Wassef said tragic bombings pulled Christians together.
“We can see the Heaven more clearly after what happened,” he said.
“In Egypt whenever these things happen it never pushes the people away from the Church – the numbers become multiplied.
“It strengthens the relations between Christians.
“There is no Egyptian, no Iraqi, no Australians. We are all one washed with the blood of Jesus Christ and it makes us as one.”