Religions and Spirituality

East Brunswick's St. Mary's Coptic Church Reels after Attacks in Egypt

Toady's distribution of a blessed bread called “Orban” at the end of the Holy Liturgy at St. Mary's Coptic Christian Church on Riva Avenue in East Brunswick. Credits: TAPinto East Brunswick
Maher Khalil and Brad Cohen at St. Mary's show support for the Egyptian-American community. Credits: TAPinto East Brunswick
Egyptian families celebrate Palm Sunday, the commemoration of Jesus's entry into the city of Jerusalem. Credits: TAPinto East Brunswick
EBPD on site of St. Mary's Church this morning following ISIS attacks against Christians in Egypt. Credits: TAPinto East Brunswick

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The local Egyptian Coptic Community was stunned today following news of an ISIS attack against 3 churches in Egypt.  The attacks in Tanta and Alexandria have claimed the lives of 38 people and injured 113 others.  A third bombing, also in Alexandria, the seat of the Egyptian Church, was thwarted by local security.  In East Brunswick, the aftershocks could be felt by members of this close community, even as they celebrated one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar.


“My heart breaks for the friends and relatives of who lost loved ones in another senseless act of terror this morning in Egypt.  I call upon the residents of East Brunswick to condemn this violence.  Let us all work to end this culture of hatred and division as we approach the season of rebirth, renewal, and hope,” said Mayor Brad Cohen in a statement given to TAPinto East Brunswick.  During this morning’s Mass, Cohen visited St. Mary’s to reassure residents of his support and that of the entire community. 


The East Brunswick Police Department had officers stationed nearby to display an increased presence during the services which were attended by several hundred residents and their families.  “We are proud to send the EBPD out to protect our houses of worship when these horrible events occur, “ said Cohen.

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Maher Khalil, who manages the office at St. Mary’s, got the news of the first attack when he got to work at 5:00 am today.  At that time, the early Mass, which goes from 4-9 am, was already in progress.  “I told the priests about the first bomb, then the second one occurred a few minutes later.”


“I think the president of Egypt will take more action,” said Khalil, noting that the National Security Officer had already been fired.  Khalil remained fixed on the incoming reports, watching the number of those reported injured increase.  “Churches are very crowded today.  This is a big community, especially in Alexandria.”


St. Mary’s claims one of the largest worship communities in New Jersey and is a central focus of the growing Egyptian Coptic population.  Smaller congregations are growing locally in Spotswood, South River, Old Bridge, and Holmdel as Egyptian Christians seek refuge in the United States, according to Khalil.


“Following the bombings in Cairo 12 months ago, our church set up a fund for the families of those lost to terrorism,” said Khalil, who manages the church’s daily life.  “It is likely that we will start a fund for these victims at our Easter Vigil Mass next Saturday evening.”


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