I began to write a post on the situation in Egypt, or more specifically on the inspiring reaction of the Copts and the sensible Muslims to the troubles in Egypt, when I came across the following little essay. It was posted on Facebook by a Mary Sarkis, apparently a Copt, though I do not know her personally. The wonders of the modern age of the internet! I don’t think it needs much comment from me, for she says what I wanted to say so much more beautifully than I could have said it. As an aside, I came upon this lovely piece via a podcast by William Lane Craig, an American Christian philosopher and apologist. Our Apologetics Group had the privilege of meeting him and atheist Laurance Krauss after their recent public debate at Sydney Town Hall.
This message has really been on my heart so please take a minute to read!
IT WILL GO DOWN IN HISTORY the grace, love, self-control, and patriotism that Copts have demonstrated in this chapter of Egypt’s history. Persecution is not new to Copts (as is the case with many minorities), but I have never been more proud to be a Copt! Not because Copts are persecuted but because of the way Copts have responded and what I’ve seen of the reaction of Moslems to the behavior of Egypt’s Christians. When 50-70 churches, Christian schools/orphanages/ monasteries (some ancient) were attacked this last week, ALL eyes were on Copts to see their reaction. Moslem-Egyptian media figures / authors like Amr Adeeb, Ibrahim 3eesa, Youssef el Hussaini, Fatma Naoout, Tarek Heggy, to name a few, all testified to the Copts’ endurance and loyalty to their country regardless of the horrific abuses that they’ve suffered, not just now but throughout history. Here’s a sample quote from talk show host Youssef El Husseini… “These Copts are a phenomenon that needs to be studied in history. Regardless of how they are used, abused, dismissed, scapegoated by their government and the enemies of their religion, they never retaliate. They are always consistent in their character and their patriotism.”
In a nation where everyone is suffering the consequences of the evil distortion of religion, Egypt’s Christians have become a model for what true faith is supposed to be and look like. Egyptians have appreciated that while Islamists cried foul to the world for the break-up of their ARMED sit-ins (after 47 days and numerous warnings) and asked for US/UN military intervention in Egypt, in contrast Copts have for ages endured violence and injustice, and when attacked for purely peaceful protests (like Maspero) they never asked the world to retaliate against their country. Don’t think for a minute that any of this was done out of weakness or helplessness! The Coptic community outside of Egypt is large and has a loud voice. In Egypt, the number of Copts is larger than the number of Radical Islamists. If Copts were not peaceful, a civil war would have broken out a long time ago like in Lebanon. But Copts have NEVER used violence or force (not even in self-defense).
I want to leave you with some beautiful gestures from Egypt’s Christians that have touched me during this crisis:
– When the attacks against churches began last Wednesday, Egyptian leaders asked for people to go out and protect the churches. The response of Christians and of Bishop Makarious (of the of the hardest hit area “El Minya”) repeatedly refused and went on record saying “My dear Moslem brother, please don’t go risking your life to protect our churches. Buildings can be rebuilt, and we will rebuild them together. But your blood is priceless and your life cannot be replaced!”
– Pope Tawadros on day 1 of attacks: “They think that by burning our churches they are retaliating against Egypt. In reality it is a redemptive offering that we offer for Egypt’s sake and we offier it with love.”
-Bishop Mikhail of Assiut (probably the second hardest hit city): “Our churches today are like a burning censer with fire coming out of it. We pray that God inhales its sweet aroma and has mercy on our beloved land.”
– Pope Tawadros on Day 3: “As an Indian poet once said, “Love is like incense. It gives out its beautiful fragrance only when thrown in the fire.”
Please don’t forget that churches were not the only thing under attack, heartbreaking stories include the man (in Giza) who was killed for not taking down St. Mary’s picture from his shop, the taxi driver (in Alexandria) attacked and killed by a mob for having a cross in his car, the boys whose orphanage was torched and had to be displaced, the nuns who were paraded around town like prisoners of war and sexually harrassed, the 60 yr-old man who was killed in El Menya, tied and dragged around to town by Islamists to make an example out of him, the 10 yr-old girl who was shot leaving sunday school, the young priest who was killed in Sinai, the hundreds of Christian homes and businesses that were torched. In addition to the devastating losses the Coptic community has suffered, Egypt’s Christians are also suffering with all Egyptians: Mourning the loss of their country as they knew it, the policemen and soldiers who were killed doing their job, the kids who were thrown off the rooftop, the victims of the MB sit-ins who were tortured and killed by and as a result of their leaders’ lust for power and Jihadist ideology, and parents all around who are wailing for their lost children. Copts are mourning with those who mourn all around them.
Thank you to Egypt’s Copts for showing the world a rare example of true Christianity in the 21st century! You ARE the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden! May God give you the grace to keep enduring, keep loving, keep shining. You are a blessing to Egypt and to Copts everywhere.