Coptic Christian Samia Sidhom, 68, reveals what Christmas will be like for Egypt’s most persecuted minority – which makes up 15% of the population.
As Coptic Christians living in Egypt we know we will be Islamic State’s first target.
Because, when IS targets Christians they fulfil two very important goals. The first is terrorism and a show of power.
The other goal they achieve is simply striking a Christian. They are against Christians so for them it’s a very big victory and they do not make a secret of it, they say it very explicitly.
This Christmas security is a serious concern. The interior ministry has already warned churches to be very cautious and to take security measures very seriously.
As far as I can see, they are doing that. But, as far as how Copts feel about it, everyone I can think of intends to go and celebrate midnight mass.
Before Christmas, which we celebrate on 7 January, we usually have a whole month where we have services of praise that are held once or twice a week.
They’re held in the evening, it’s quite a long service. Copts like it very much. It’s the equivalent of our Christmas carols.
This is already going on, the churches are already very full, everyone is there, they’re enjoying it very much.
Everyone says they will be going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
In terms of security, there are electronic gates when you go in and the congregation is usually known to the guards but they check everyone.
The interior ministry has placed its own guards at church doors because they don’t want to take any risks.
It’s not pleasant, it’s not good – that’s an understatement – nobody wants an attack or an explosion but no matter how high the security risk is there is some sort of risk or other.
I don’t think the threat and the increased security will stop people going to church.
Copts are very pious people and they get attacked because they go to church, so they insist on going to church – we will not give in. This sort of stuff has been going on for years and the general attitude is “we’re not getting into that”.
There are of course fears there will be another attack around Christmas.
The problem, as I see it, is that there is so much security around the churches that the attack might take place in a totally different place where no one expects it.
This is what I have learnt from these terrorists, this is how they work. If somewhere is very heavily guarded then they don’t come near that, they can find other places.
The church does what it can in terms of security to take very good care of who goes in the church, they check everyone who goes in, especially if it’s a stranger.
They check them very well, especially after explosions. The explosion at St Peter and St Paul Coptic Church in Cairo in December last year, for instance, there was some security but the suicide bomber ran into the church but by the time the guards ran after him he had already detonated the bomb.
It’s not pleasant for the Government to always be accused of shortcomings when it comes to protecting Copts so they will provide security just to keep that headache off their backs.
The Copt community is very close, so when an attack happens it affects everyone.
I don’t know anyone who’s been attacked first hand but, you know a friend who knows a friend.
The first reaction is one of severe pain and anger. Then the comfort comes in.
With the three suicide attacks we’ve had since December 2016 it is stunning how the families take these big calamities.
We are targeted because of our faith and it is faith that keeps us going, keeps us going to church, and it’s faith that made the families of the victims talk.
One little girl who was killed, Maggie, she was 10 years old, a very bright child.
We were stunned how her mother took it, the way she spoke, it gave us all comfort.
She took it with absolute faith. She wasn’t just talking of losing her daughter and she’s now in a better place in heaven – that you might expect.
But she went on to do very positive charity work in the name of her daughter and she reached out to the community and she spoke to many people.
She’s not an exception, many others spoke in the same way.
They give us faith and there is comfort and this comfort is not human, it’s past any human comfort. It’s strength for people’s faith and it makes them feel everything they believe in and suffer for is worth it.
We’re a very resilient people, we will remain in Egypt and continue to practice – the terrorists will not stop us.
Archbishop Angaelos, head of the Coptic Church in the UK and a friend of Ms Sidhom’s, told Sky News Copts in Egypt are incredibly resilient and they will not allow acts of terror to disturb their church life and belief.
He believes Britons will understand their resilience in times of difficulty as he said they too showed strength after this year’s terror attacks in Manchester and London.
:: Samia Sidhom is a former chemical engineer and is now managing editor of the English pages of Egypt’s oldest independent newspaper, Watani, founded by her father in 1968.
:: Copts are from a branch of Christianity founded in the first century in Egypt where there are currently up to 15 million followers, about 15% of the population, making them the country’s largest minority.
:: They have been persecuted in Egypt for centuries but over the past few years Islamic State (IS) has made them their main target in the country.