QUETTA (Pakistan)/ JAKARTA • Christmas church services and other celebrations are being held this weekend under the gaze of armed guards and security cameras in many countries after militants of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacked a Methodist church in Pakistan as a Sunday service began.
Muslim-majority countries in Asia and the Middle East are particularly nervous after US President Donald Trump's recent announcement that he intends to relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a decision that has outraged many Muslims.
In Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority country, police said they had stepped up security around churches and tourist sites, mindful of near-simultaneous attacks on churches there at Christmas in 2000 that killed about 20 people.
In Cairo, where a bombing at the Egyptian capital's largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people last December, the interior ministry said police would conduct regular patrols of streets around churches ahead of the Coptic celebration of Christmas on Jan 7.
Egypt's Christian minority has been targeted in several attacks in recent years, including the bombing of two churches in the north of the country on Palm Sunday in April.
At the Heliopolis Basilica, a Catholic cathedral in north-eastern Cairo, security forces had set up metal detectors at the main doors and police vehicles were stationed outside ahead of masses on Dec 25, which marks Christmas Day for Catholic and Protestant Christians.
We are concerned not only with safety at churches and places of worship, but also any threats by ISIS or any other security threat following the Jerusalem issue.
MALAYSIA'S INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE MOHAMAD FUZI HARUN
German police brought in experts and an explosives robot to investigate a suspicious package at a Christmas market in the city of Bonn late on Friday.
Germany is on high alert a year after a failed Tunisian asylum seeker killed 12 people when he hijacked a truck and drove it into a Berlin Christmas market.
In the Pakistani city of Quetta, members of Bethel Memorial Methodist Church were repairing the damage caused by a pair of suicide bombers who attacked during a service last Sunday, killing 10 people and wounding more than 50.
The government of Balochistan province, of which Quetta is capital, plans to deploy 3,000 security personnel in and around 39 Christian churches today and on Monday.
In Malaysia, a police official said Mr Trump's decision on Jerusalem increased worry about attacks.
"We are concerned not only with safety at churches and places of worship, but also any threats by ISIS or any other security threat following the Jerusalem issue," said Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun.
Jerusalem, revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, is home to Islam's third holiest site and has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades.
Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it in an action not recognised internationally.
In Jerusalem itself, an Israeli police spokesman said there were no new security measures, but police would deploy forces as usual around Christian holy sites including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and also secure convoys of worshippers from the West Bank city of Bethlehem, traditionally known as the birthplace of Jesus Christ and run by the Palestinian Authority.
Many Palestinian Christians oppose Mr Trump's announcement and say they have no fear of attacks.
"Trump's decision offended all Palestinians, be they Christians or Muslims. Why would we feel threatened by Muslims?" said Mr George Antone, a Catholic who lives in Gaza, which is run by the Palestinian Hamas group.
Source : http://straitstimes.com/world/armed-guards-for-xmas-events-in-muslim-majority-countries