Members of Long Island’s only Coptic Church said they were “devastated” but “not completely surprised” by the bombings of two Egyptian churches on Palm Sunday.
At the same time, Nassau County and New York City police stepped up patrols outside houses of worship in what officials called a precautionary measure.
About 100 members of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Center and St. Abraam Church in Woodbury bowed their heads during a prayer yesterday in honor of the at least 44 people killed and 126 wounded in attacks claimed by the Islamic State.
The Rev. Guirguis Tadros said the church, which serves 400 families, will host similar prayers — with increased security — every night during the Holy Week leading up to Easter. He said that while there have been similar deadly attacks in Egypt, “this time it was bigger and more organized.”
Nadim Shohdy of Garden City said the news “felt like déjà vu.”
“It’s happened many times before but you can still never get used to it,” said Shohdy, referring to a December bombing at a Cairo church that killed 30 people.
Aida Samir, whose husband, the Rev. Moussa Shafik, is a member of the Woodbury church’s clergy, said she “cannot keep quiet” about the “persecution” of Christians in Egypt.
“We are enjoying a lot of freedom here,” Samir said. “Our brothers and sisters go to church and do not know if they’ll come back or not.”
The attacks began inside St. George’s Church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, where a blast killed at least 27 people and wounded 78, officials said. Hours later, a suicide bomber killed at least 17 people and wounded 48 at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal Egyptian city of Alexandria.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said in a statement issued yesterday that “although there are no known imminent threats to Nassau County,” police are stepping up patrols at houses of worship and at government buildings, mass transit locations, “critical infrastructure” and “significant public events.”
The NYPD has ramped up its presence “just out of an abundance of caution,” a spokesman said.
Suffolk County police officials said they were still working on their response to the attacks.
Elected officials around the country spoke of and tweeted their concerns about the bombings. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan tweeted comments from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, saying, “We remember, in a very special way, our Coptic Orthodox Christian neighbors.”
With Ted Phillips