Dear Terrorist, I am praying for you.

5 01 2011

I have two extremely contradicting images in my mind right now, the first with The Lord Jesus Christ spreading peace and love in the world, insisting in His teachings on the power of love and forgiveness. And another terrible image of a group of extremists working on spreading hatred and violene. The two images are fighting over which will dominate my thinking and feeling.

On one hand, I feel terrible about what has happened in St. Mark and Pope Petrus Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt. In the past days I was charged with lots of negative feelings. I couldn’t resist being filled with resentment and anger, seeing my people being killed by cold blooded hands. I couldn’t even appreciate condolences from my Muslim friends. I blamed every one  of being partially responsible for this horrendous incident. After all they are following the same teachings that made the attackers make such move.

While on the other hand, I feel that we as a Church are blessed with such persecution, it’s a gift from God as it’s written : “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29).  I feel obliged as a Christian to rejoice in the Lord all the time specially in the time of tribulations. I feel I need to replace my grief  with hope and trust in God’s promises. And above all, I have to overcome my resentment and anger. There  should’t be a place for such feelings in a Christian’s heart.

While writing these words, It seems now to me that there is no way to compare these two mental  images, I don’t know how I even tried to compare them. Of course I decide to follow my Lord’s teachings. I’ll  give no room for hatred but for love, no room for cursing but for blessing. There is no room in my heart for evil but only for God.

So, here are some messages I have for the people involved _some way or another_  in this incident:

To the Islamic fanatics:  I love you and I pray for you. Even though I can’t understand why you are blinded with hatred against us, I still have hopes that one day you will know the truth. I hope that you will know that you are gaining nothing from this, on the contrary you are giving us more reasons to come closer to God, you are opening the gates of the heaven to many of us. You are giving us a golden chance to entrust God more and remember our ancestors who gladly offered their souls for our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope that one day you will know that you are not fighting against us but against our Protector and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Ultimately I hope one day you will get to know Him personally. It is not impossible as I remember Irianos the governor who killed thousands of Copts before he knew Jesus Christ and died as a martyr himself.

To my Muslim friends: Some of you shocked me with your denial and projection of what happened, others showed what solidarity means. However, I am sorry to say that I no more know who is sincere and who is not. I lost confidence in many of you. I hope one day we become really and genuinely united. Trust is so easily broken but it needs so much effort to be built. This doesn’t mean that I hold you all blamable for what happened but I need some time to heal from the wounds. I still love you and appreciate you as compatriots.

To my friends who lost relatives and loved ones in this terrible incident: Your pain is my pain. I pray to the Lord that He heals your wounds soon. We didn’t lose these martyrs, we actually gained new intercessors in the heaven. Maybe, we are deprived from seeing them by eyes, but they will remain in our hearts. It’s our faith that makes us stronger than any circumstances, and it’s our faith that they are rejoicing now and praising the Lord for His wondrous deeds. I specially pray for Mr. Fikry, Sherry,  Remon, Michael, Rafik, Emad, and Mina, May the king of peace shines with His peace and comfort on your hearts.

To the beloved martyrs:  Remember us in your prayers  in front of  the throne of grace. We mourn your departure but with hope that we will be reunited again one day. You gained a great reward from the Lord. Enjoy it and intercede for us who are still struggling in this world.

To all the Christians in Egypt:  There are no better words to say than to repeat after St. Paul what he said to the Romans:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “ If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.



Naga’ Hammadi Martyrs

16 01 2010

I felt overwhelmed last week by the amount of tragic events that happened, and I could have written about my feelings earlier. However, I thought it was wise to wait, for two reasons: First, I said that I should wait and see how people will deal with these events, and the reaction of the government. Second, I was really steamed with anger and maybe I would have written some harsh words that I might regret afterwards. But, now it is time for me to write and declare my sorrow for what happened, and also write about how I feel towards my people and towards my country and its corrupted system.
The Facts:

  • It was the Christmas eve according to the Coptic calender. In Nagaa Hammadi, a small city in upper Egypt, some young men celebrated the Holy Communion on this night and were heading home for a hearty meal after 43 days of fasting, they were wearing new clothes as a symbol of festivity and celebration. A car approached these youths and sprayed fire from machine guns towards them. That resulted in killing 8 of them and wounding another  10. I knew about this just 3 hours after it happened. I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept thinking about those who got killed, about their families, and about the feast the next day that turned into a day of great grief and pain.
  • The news spread insanely, Every body in Egypt and abroad knew about it, some newspapers even published them in their early editions the next day. The feast was dull, people followed the news updates, some of them managed to attend the funeral that took place on the next day. protests were a common scene in Nagaa Hammadi, police forces scattered everywhere in this small city, to subdue the protests and demonstrations. Simply Nagga Hammadi was on fire. I did nothing on the feast day other than following news websites and channels, I couldn’t even greet my friends, we all were in great grief.
  • In the after noon, some of the Muslims living in Nagaa Hammadi set fire in Christian’s homes and shops. Violence also affected another near by village called Bahgora. And an old Christian woman suffocated in her house that was burnt by some of the violent and aggressive residents in Bahgora(!!)
  • The protests from both sides lasted for two days, and ended finally by arresting a number of Christians, and a SMALLER number of Muslims!!

Media Reaction:

  • The governmental newspapers in the beginning didn’t give the incident much attention, I think that they thought that this incident would pass calmly as the previous similar incidents. But when the incident got the attention of private media they started also to cover it in their own shallow way to serve their purposes.
  • The first mention to this incident in “اليوم السابع” news paper also showed how biased there were. The title of the article was “clashes between Christians and Muslims, led to the killing of 6”. How this attack is considered “clashes”??! Innocent people were going out of a church and got killed and they called it clashes!!
  • The only one Muslim who got killed in this incident was called a “martyr of duty” in many newspapers, claiming that he got shot while guarding the church. However, the truth is he wasn’t guarding anything. He wasn’t even on duty. He just was unlucky enough to be mistakenly considered a Christian by the killers, so they killed him with other two Christians who were with him. Meanwhile, none of the killed Christians was called a martyr of any kind.

Public Reaction:

  • “This is an individual attack and has nothing to do with sectarian violence!” that was the government comment on this terrible attack, they simply ignored the huge and increasing  number of hate crimes against Christians. They just didn’t want to say the truth, they were burying their heads in the sands. What did they think? that we are going to accept their weak justification, and claim that everything is alright?! NO!! We WILL NOT!! EVERYTHING IS NOT ALRIGHT.
  • Another stupid justification, found on the tongues of people who don’t want to think, is that this incident happened as a revenge to the prior incident of a Christian man raped a Muslim girl two months ago in another city! That is really nonsense. Why didn’t they attack the Christians in that city? Why do they avenge from people who are not related by any means to the rapist? Those criminals have no values or morals as they already have criminal records, they just do their crimes for money. Why would they do a crime that won’t benefit them? all these questions need to be answered, if they want to support this stupid claim.
  • The Governor of Qena governorate, who is Christian by the way, and even before the start of investigations, assured the audience in a TV show that this crime has no instigator and is not related to any sectarian violence!! This man lost his credibility in every Coptic heart and mind all over Egypt. This also showed us how authority in Egypt rots every one even the only Christian Governor.
  • Lots of accusations targeted Abd Elreheem Elghoul the Parliament member as the main instigator. when he was faced with this accusations he denied even cooperating with the main criminal in his campaigns. However, there are many videos over the Internet showing them together during his campaigns. Doesn’t this show that he lied to remove himself from the situation? shouldn’t investigators link between his statements and the videos that prove the total opposite? I know that man is an accomplice, based on the statements of many local people their, including the Bishop himself. If they really want to prevent such incidents from happening again, they really should apply the law on everybody without fear.

My thoughts:

  • People can get really blinded, opinionated, and biased!! specially people of authority. Their number one interest is keeping their positions. But justice is just not present in their vocabulary.
  • I was amazed that some Muslims attacked the Christians and their homes and shops after this incident. As if it wasn’t enough for them to mourn their martyrs. They wanted to add to their grief and sorrow, the feeling of fear and injustice. How are these actions justified? I can’t find any plausible cause. Just hatred I guess!
  • No one bothered to dig for the truth. All I have heard was just blaming the criminals, and stressing on the FACT that they are not true Muslims, and Islam disowns them!!
  • A really funny comment I read was one Muslim guy advising his fellow Muslims not to say “May God have mercy on them”, claiming that this statement is not applicable on Christians, it is only for dead Muslims!! Just imagine how this guy deals with other Christians!!
  • Again I stress on saying: Christians in Egypt are not second class citizens, we have equal rights as Muslim co-citizens. ANY ONE who disagrees with this should check his sanity!
  • I have a strong feeling, that this terrible incident will pass just like the previous ones, without one action towards solving the deepened roots of hatred of some Muslims towards Copts. No single lesson will be learnt.
  • A positive point out of this mess: is that Copts from now on, will stand for their rights. no more silence, no more feeling of injustice, no more feeling of inferiority. We are EQUAL citizens in Egypt regardless of one’s  religion.
  • Another shameful act happened during the funeral, some people threw stones, empty bottles, and garbage on the Christians while walking to the graves! Some women were “بيزغردوا” as the funeral passed by them!! does these acts show sympathy?! unity?! solidarity?! or just detestable hatred?! And if people say that who did the attacks are a minority, what about these common people, who were everywhere in Nagaa  Hammadi? Are they also a minority? Does Islam disowns them too? If the answer to the last question is yes, then Islam will disowns lots of its adherents!
  • If Muslims really want to solve the problems, they have to use their minds and not to follow blindly hate speeches against Christians. YES! there are hate speeches against Christians and I will post an example in my next post.
  • My final words are not my own thoughts but a promise from the bible: ” فَيَكُونُ عَلاَمَةً وَشَهَادَةً لِلرَّبِّ الْقَدِيرِ فِي دِيَارِ مِصْرَ، لأَنَّهُمْ يَسْتَغِيثُونَ بِالرَّبِّ مِنْ مُضَايِقِيهِمْ، فَيَبْعَثُ إِلَيْهِمْ مُخَلِّصاً وَمُدَافِعاً يُنْقِذُهُمْ”. ” It will be a sign and witness to the LORD Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them.” Isaiah(19:20).