By Anandita Mehta
During a terrorist attack on two Coptic churches in southern Egypt, 49 were killed and 78 injured on April 9, The New York Times reported.
The attacks, which occurred in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, were committed by bombers wearing suicide vests, according to Al Jazeera.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to CNN.
Since Christians are a minority group in Egypt, which is predominantly Muslim, the Coptic community is vulnerable, according to The New York Times.
The Coptic Orthodox Church split from other Christian denominations in 451 A.D., but Coptic Christians believe in the 10 commandments and practice sacraments. Many Coptic Christians believe that they are descendants of the ancient Egyptians, according to ABC.
Approximately half of all Christians in the Middle East are members of the Coptic faith, according to The Atlantic.
The Coptic community, representing about 10 percent of the Egyptian population, has been targeted by violent groups in the past, Al Jazeera reported.
Samer Shehata, an associate professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, told Al Jazeera that the attacks show poor security efforts in the country despite past violence against churches.
There were metal detectors at the entrances to the churches, but the suicide bombers pushed past them, according to The New York Times.
Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi declared a state of emergency in the wake of the blasts, as well as three days of nationwide mourning for the victims, according to CNN.
The same source reported that ISIS threatened to attack again in the future, with these attacks strategically planned to coincide with the start of the Christian holy week.
The Coptic Christian community has been shaken by the attacks and did not celebrate Easter this week as a sign of respect for the victims and their families, The Independent reported.
According to the same source, Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt later this month.
The grief surrounding the attacks has taken a hold even in Coptic churches in America, as members of the faith mourn the deaths of their fellow worshippers, The Atlantic reported.
Just before the attacks, el-Sisi visited the U.S. and spoke with President Donald Trump about their mutual agreement to fight terrorism in Egypt, CNN reported.
The same source reported that in the wake of the attacks, the U.S. stood by Egypt, pledging to defeat terrorism.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres “condemned the attacks and offered his sympathies to the victims and to the country,” according to CNN.