Tragedy. Pain. Suffering. Murder. This is daily life for Coptic Orthodox Christians (Copts) living in Egypt. On Friday, May 26, 2017, another vicious attack was carried out against an unsuspecting group on pilgrimage to St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Upper Egypt. Having left Minya – home to a large percentage of Egypt’s Christians – masked gunmen overtook the bus killing at least 28 Copts and leaving an additional 24 injured, many of them young children. Sadly this is simply the most recent tragedy that has afflicted the Christians of Egypt.
Blood Stained Floors
On December 11, 2016, a suicide bomber entered St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church at the Coptic Headquarters in Cairo – seat of His Holiness Pope Tawadrous II – killing 29 people who were gathered for worship. This was the first time the church was ever bombed. Christmas and New Year’s Eve – instead of being a time of great joy – were marked with heaviness of heart. The Church building was left with blood stained floors.
On April 9, 2017, suicide attacks at churches in Alexandria and Tanta, Egypt – targeting His Holiness Pope Tawadrous II, His Grace Bishop Bola, and the thousands of people gathered for worship on Palm Sunday – killed 46 people. As the Holy Pascha Week began for Christians through the world – celebrating the final days of Jesus Christ when He shed His blood and rose from the dead – the Christians of Egypt were once again faced with blood stained floors.
Today the deserts of Egypt have been soaked with the fresh blood of Christian martyrs, who intended to spend their day on a pilgrimage to St. Samuel Monastery. Asked by the gunmen to renounce their faith in Christ – to say the “shahada” – the Christians on the bus chose to die before denying Jesus Christ. The passengers, oldest to youngest, bravely stood in the face of their killers by proclaiming their faith. Their payment? The thuggish assassins spilled the blood of these innocent people. Soon the winds will turn the blood soaked sands from the desert. There will be no blood stained floors with this tragic event to remind us of the lives that were brutally taken this day. But we must not forget!
1. Stand Together: When tragedy strikes, we typically are stirred to respond with “an eye for an eye.” Far too often, hurt people, hurt people; who unfortunately end up hurting still other people. We must resist the inclination to fan the flames of hatred and fear that grip the human soul in these moments. Today there have been countless people and organizations – civic and religious, domestic and international, Christian and non-Christian – who have extended arms of solidarity and love. We too must learn to extend our hands to one another, understanding that any single drop of innocent blood that is shed, is an attack against all of humanity.
2. Value Every Life: As I spoke with a close friend this morning, we realized how often these sorts of events have been taking place throughout the world. Unfortunately occurrences like this happen to take place to Christians in Egypt on a near daily basis. Sure, it may not be a bus load of people or church packed with worshippers, but on an almost daily basis Christians are being attacked or killed. It has become so commonplace – and the large-scale attacks are beginning to happen so much more often – that many people acknowledged that they have “become numb to the day-to-day stuff” (that are tragedies in their own right). This is an absolute danger that we must avoid. If any atrocity is ignored, any attack is overlooked, or we turn the blind eye to systemic discrimination, we are all culpable.
3. Use Your Influence: Regretfully, all too often, people sit by and do nothing. Simply ignoring these types of atrocities will only encourage more such actions. Use your influence to make a change. Start with the most powerful force in the entire Universe. Pray! The influence that has been granted to humanity with the Father through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit has the ability to – not only heal the brokenhearted but also to – transform hearts of wickedness into vessels of love. In addition, there are “tangible steps” that can be taken to protect – in this instance – religious minorities in the middle east. Use your influence to raise awareness and apply pressure to those who are able to directly take action towards these steps.
As the sands of time pass, and the winds hide the blood soaked sands beneath our feet, take responsibility to stand up for those who are the most vulnerable in the world.