A NEW REALITY FOR CHRISTIANS IN EGYPT
A lack of parking spots used to be one of the only concerns on the busy crowded streets of Cairo. Mary, our reporter/blogger from Egypt, shares a new and very different perspective.
There was a new routine on Palm Sunday this year. On a day when many Christian families in Egypt usually go to church together to celebrate, families were separating, attending mass in twos and threes in different churches. One parent would take one or two children; the other would take the rest. This new pattern is a precaution some are taking so that at least some members of the family will survive in the event of a bomb attack.
The praying hands of a Coptic believer, showing his cross tattoo.
That’s what Daesh/Islamic State terrorists do in Egypt. They go to a church, detonate a bomb, and cause an explosion that mercilessly snatches away the lives of many innocent people while they are praying. Many families caught up in recent attacks have lost more than one member.
My larger family lost two – my aunt and her daughter – while my other aunt, who was injured in the explosion, lies bedridden in a hospital for who knows how long.
CHILDREN’S CAMPS AND PILGRIMAGES CANCELLED
Three consecutive explosions in less than six months: St Peter’s (Botroseya) church attack in December, two bombs in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday, followed by a massacre of men, women and children in buses going to church. These attacks have stamped fear in the hearts of Copts living in Egypt.
Now that most monasteries have closed their doors to visitors for ‘safety’ reasons, many have lost the opportunity to make their regular summer spiritual visits to these places of peace and prayer. Churches have told their congregations that all children’s summer trips are cancelled.
CHECKPOINTS – MORE SECURE OR LESS?
My church, which has two entrances, keeps one locked while the other has a metal detector gate where all who enter must pass through and be scanned. The traffic authorities have also closed off parts of the street leading to the church gates for extra security.
All these security measures around me add to my fear instead of making me feel secure and protected. Our church doors have always been open to anyone who wanted to enter. Many non-Christians would come through the church gates to use the toilet or to buy water from the canteen. Some would enter the church for a blessing or to light a candle. Now even Christians have their bags checked before entering.
Ever since I learned that both of the Botroseya and Alexandria church bombers were wearing a detonating belt while roaming the streets alongside other pedestrians like they hadn’t a worry in the world, my perspective of the street has altered. No matter what kind of security there is, it will not change the mentality of a suicide attacker or prevent them.
I’ve reduced my trips to the church and have become very selective where I go. With many warnings on social media against going to malls and public places, I am wary about my errands. There was a time whenre my only concern was a lack of parking spots on the busy crowded streets of Cairo. Now there’s another factor.
There are many terrorist incidents around the world, targeting innocent individuals on the streets, in a café or in concert halls, but knowing that you are targeted as a Coptic Christian is a different matter.
Christians in Egypt have experienced violence all through their history. Cross tattoos on many believers’ wrists are a tradition passed down from a time of persecution. Parents tattooed them on their children so that if they were killed, their children would grow up knowing their Christian identity and would then learn about their faith.
However, the times of peace have made us forget that this blessed land of Egypt has seen bloodier dynasties of Christian persecution than many other parts of the world.
Let’s pray for the peace of the Lord in our lives and our communities, and for protection and security beyond temporary solutions.
• For church leaders to show wisdom on how to deal with this new state of emergency.
• Pray for ways that the church can continue with it's work.
• Pray for Christians to reach out to the unsaved with even more zeal and love.
• For the church to make much more of prayer in this time.
Mary Joseph is SAT-7’s Egypt Communications Officer and is based in Cairo. She has lived in Egypt and Australia and worked as a journalist in secular and religious media. Her passions are reading, writing, travelling and photography.