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 families in Egypt usually go to church together to celebrate, families were separating: going to attend 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 of the family will survive in the event of a bomb attack.
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 at prayer. 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 hospital for who knows how long?
Children’s camps and pilgrimages cancelled
Three consecutive explosions in less than six months – beginning with the St Peter’s (Botroseya) church attack in December, to two bombs in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday, followed by a massacre of men, women and children in buses going to church. These 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 opportunities to make their usual 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 doors, keeps one of them locked while the other one has a metal detector gate where all who enter must pass through. The traffic authorities have also closed off part 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. 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 going in a church.
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 made my trips to the church less 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. Time was when a lack of parking spots was my only concern 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.
As Christians, we expect this persecution. Christians in Egypt have experienced persecution 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 that the Lord gives us the real peace that He promised and not one offered by authorities as an exchange or a temporary solution.
Throughout recent attacks on Egypt’s Christian community, SAT-7’s live praise show Keep on Singing has brought consolation and encouragement to viewers. The latest edition focused on “peace amidst pain” and peace as a fruit of the Spirit. Coming editions are expected to highlight the other fruits of the Spirit identified in Galatians 5.