Egypt’s el-Sissi attends Christmas Mass amid tight security

Source: Associated Press

By HAMZA HENDAWI

CAIRO (AP) — In a show of solidarity with Egypt’s embattled Christians, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi Saturday made a symbolic appearance at an Orthodox Christmas Mass in a new cathedral as tens of thousands of soldiers and police deployed outside churches across the country in anticipation of possible attacks by Islamic militants.

“We, with the grace of God, are offering a message of peace and love from here, not just to Egyptians or to the region, but to the entire world,” el-Sissi told a jubilant congregation while standing next to Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic pontiff.

“I always say this and repeat it: Destruction, ruin and killing will never be able to defeat goodness, construction, love and peace. It’s impossible,” said el-Sissi, a Muslim. “Pay attention, you are our family. You are part of us. We are one and no one will ever drive a wedge between us.”

In Cairo and across much of the Muslim majority country, soldiers in full combat gear joined the police in protecting churches, most of which are now equipped with metal detectors. Worshippers undergo body searches at church entrances. Some churches have had their surrounding streets sealed off, with sidewalks barricaded to control pedestrian movement.

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