By: Monica Reyad
Everyone has a story to tell. Every race, culture and religion around the world has their own stories to tell. So, let me tell you our story. At this point in time, 2017, I no longer must explain what being Coptic means. Everyone knows who we are and where we come from, because our story is one of full of blood and martyrdom, so much, that our blood has seeped through the soils of Egypt. At one point in time, it had surprised me time and time again when people did not know what the Coptic Church was or who we are as Coptic people.
So here it goes. We are the Nation of the Cross, hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8). Since the first century, we have been heavily persecuted for our faith. We are the Church of the Martyrs after all. If I were to write of every event in which our blood was tainted for merely practicing our faith since the beginning of time, this post would become a history book. So, to name a few, let me begin with the events that have taken place in the last two years.
On February 12, 2015, 21 Coptic men were kidnapped and beheaded on a beach in Libya. A video was published by ISIL calling these captives the “people of the Cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian Church.” So how did we respond? Their blood literally changed the colours of the ocean, yet we, the people of the Nation of the Cross responded with a love so powerful, calling ISIS our brothers.
On May 26, 2016, a 70-year-old woman was stripped of her clothing, and was beaten and dragged through the streets of Minya. On December 11, 2016, a suicide bomber walked into al Botroseya Church in Cairo, killing over 29 people and injuring over 47. Most of these were women and children. Innocent people who had gone to church to pray and receive the Sacrament of Communion, slain then and there. So how did we respond? With reverent prayer and love. Families were torn apart, yet people bowed down on their knees and prayed. You see, their faith was so beyond understanding that they declared their forgiveness openly the minute tragedy struck.
On February 2017, terrorist groups fighting in the Sinai area of Egypt called for insurgency attacks against the Copts living in the area. Seven Christians were killed in separate instances during that time, while thousands of families were forcibly displaced from their homes. On April 9, 2017, two bombings took place on the same day, in the churches of St. George in Tanta and St. Mark in Alexandria, killing over 45 people and injuring over 130. April 9 was no ordinary day, as Christians around the world were celebrating the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem. What was meant to be a day of rejoicing turned into a day of heavy mourning for Copts around the world.
On May 7, 2017, a Coptic man was shot dead in El-Arish. But wait. We’re not done yet.
Today, May 26, 2017 another tragedy struck. As I currently write this blog post, I am live streaming the funeral of those who were attacked today on their way to St. Samuel’s Monastery in Egypt. As I sit here broken-hearted, I can hear mothers screaming over the loss of their children – heart wrenching screams that draw tears to my eyes and tug at my heart strings. I can hear the agitation of their mourning and see the hurt in their eyes. I can sense their despair, their heartbreak – that it kills them to know that it will never end. Today, over 30 people were killed and over 30 were injured in Minya, Egypt, while sitting in a bus waiting to reach their monastic destination, most of these being children. But today, God had a different destination in mind, and they have received their crowns of martyrdom. With a heavy heart, I offer my deepest condolences to those affected by today’s tragic events, and to Copts around the world that are mourning, knowing inside of their hearts this is anything but over. “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed” (Revelations 6:9).
The plight of Copts in Egypt, although nothing new, has continued to be ignored, making the issue more impossible than ever to be solved. Egyptian politicians, constantly declaring they are “one nation” after tragedy upon tragedy strikes, is anything but “one nation,” as systematic discrimination continues to take place against Copts with no avail. We as a humanity should be ashamed. What possesses people to kill others, based on their belief? Who has taken it upon themselves to decide one is not worthy of life anymore? That one is not worthy to practice their religion in peace and security and deserves to die?
The thoughts running through my head are too much to bear, and as I ponder these questions in my heart, I know I will never get an answer that could justify what has been done to my people since the beginning of time. Yet what I know, is that Jesus Himself was spit on, scourged, beaten and mocked. He was forced to carry His cross and be crucified for the sake of the humanity He created with His own hands. There was no greater love than Jesus sacrificing Himself for a humanity that has continued to be so unworthy. But He did it, and He did it with the upmost love. So we too, as a Nation of a Cross do not fight back with a sword, but we fight on our knees with the power of God’s love in our hearts.
The blood of the Egypt’s Copts has seeped into the seas and has stained soils and deserts. Though broken hearted, we continue to be stronger than ever. We are the Nation of the Cross, after all, the Cross that was powerful enough to cause the earth to quake and the rocks to be split. We will not be shaken. Not now, not ever. “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His”(2 Timothy 2:19).