Koenders expresses condolences to Coptic Pope in Cairo after terrorist attack

During his working visit to Cairo, foreign minister Bert Koenders today visited the Coptic Orthodox church of St Peter and St Paul, which was bombed in a terrorist attack on 11 December. He spoke to the Coptic Pope Tawadros II and expressed his condolences. The attack killed 26 worshippers. This morning, a 10-year-old girl died of her injuries, bringing the death toll to 27.

‘This is not only an attack on the Copts, but on all Egyptians. Together, Muslims, Christians and other minorities form the fabric of Egyptian society,’ Mr Koenders said. He saw the attack as underlining yet again the vulnerable position of minorities in the Middle East. The Netherlands is working to strengthen and maintain inclusive societies in which there is scope for differences.

During his visit, Mr Koenders emphasised that opposing sectarian violence is the joint responsibility of all population groups. He said that the unity demonstrated by Muslim and Christian Egyptians and their readiness to work together in the aftermath of the church attack was ‘encouraging, and a clear signal to all those who seek to sow division’.

The minister added that the bombing showed once again that terrorism affects everyone. ‘This was made sadly clear only yesterday by the attack on the Christmas market in Berlin, which killed 12 people. Other attacks have targeted restaurant customers in Paris, football supporters and police officers in Istanbul, and churchgoers in Cairo. The terrorists’ aim is to instil fear. We must arm ourselves against this violence by being resolute and working together.’

On Tuesday Mr Koenders took part in the biennial meeting of the foreign ministers of the European Union and the League of Arab States. ‘Europe and the Arab nations are facing major challenges. The ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and issues like terrorism and migration can only be tackled if we work together,’ Mr Koenders said.