A Coptic Poem to ISIS

Coptic Poem to ISIS

After the latest atrocity against the Copts perpetrated by the Islamic State – killing 30 in an ambush of a church outing to visit a monastery – the following poem was circulated on social media.

It is entitled ‘A Message to ISIS’, written by Kiro al-Masry. The translation is mine and the Arabic original is given at the bottom.


I will not speak (as some have done)

And curse your religion whatever its name.

I have come that it be known:

My fathers’ religion and what it proclaims.


My fathers’ religion has love at its heart,

The meaning of which will call you to peace.

My fathers’ religion, right from the start

Offers forbearance that conflict will cease.


Your hatred and killing in no way suffices

To stop us from loving and praying for you.

My father’s religion, oh dear Uncle ISIS,

Is not a weapon to pierce you straight through.


I wish that you could come to see

Or just one time the answer seek.

That while you bomb and murder, we

Stay strong as if a mountain peak.


My fathers’ religion of spirit consists.

It is not a body whose end is the dust.

And for the spirit—despite death persists—

Awaiting are loved ones residing in trust.


My fathers’ religion, if you could discern,

Offers each wounded the medic of life.

Tomorrow when you will repent and return,

You will come to know just who is the Christ.


رسالة لكل داعش


انا مش هقول زي اللي قالوا دين ابوكم اسمه ايه

انا جاي اقـــــول دين ابويا يعني ايه


دين ابويا يعني حب يعني دعوه للسلام

دين ابوايا من البدايه دين تسامح مش خصام


رغم كرهك رغم قتلك وصاني اصليلك واحبك

دين ابويا ياعم داعش مش سلاح يطعن ف جسمك


نفسي تفهم مره واحده او  تساءل نفسك سؤال

ازاي وانتوا بتقتلـــونا بنبقي صخر من الجبال


دين ابويا اصله روح مش جسد اخره التراب

يعني لما الروح بتصعد بتتلاقي مع الاحباب


دين ابويا لو بتفهم دين بيداوي كل جريح

وبكره لما تتوب وترجع هتعرف مين هو ( المسيــــح )

بقلم الشاعر : كيرو المصري


In a future post I hope to offer some commentary and reflection. But for now, take note at one way Copts are encouraging themselves in the face of atrocity and evil. Pray for them, and for ISIS likewise.





Poetry on the Third Anniversary of the Alexandria Church Bombing

Blood on the church wall in Alexandria (L); Poet Ahmed Fouad Negm (R)
Blood on the church wall in Alexandria (L); Poet Ahmed Fouad Negm (R)

At midnight of New Year’s Eve celebrations at the Two Saints Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria, Egypt, a bomb exploded as the crowd began to exit, killing 23. The horrific event birthed a tremendous display of Muslim-Christian unity, as a week later on Coptic Christmas churches were packed with Muslims showing solidarity, willing to die with their Christian friends should a similar attack happen again. The local priest in Maadi said that Christmas was the ‘happiest of his life‘.

The unity following the bombing spilled over into the January 25 revolution, giving a power to the demonstrations that has long since dissipated. But at the time it was contagious, capturing domestic and world attention alike, launching the Arab Spring after its birth in Tunisia.

One of the celebrants was Ahmed Fouad Negm, known in Egypt as ‘the poet of the people’ and a firm revolutionary supporter. He died this month on December 3, but is mentioned here for his poem lamenting the Alexandria attack. Thanks to Paul Attallah for bringing this beautiful work to my attention:

These people say God is love

And we all know how dangerous love is.

So, victorious hero, you had to murder helpless women,

Unarmed pensioners and innocent children to save us all

From the terrible possibility of love.

Botros and Mina should be killed.

Their brothers are already dead in Sinai

And their sons danced at your wedding

And offered their condolences at the funerals.

Marie and Aunt Thérèse deserve to die.

They are people of little virtue.

They always smile in a certain way

And say: Welcome. We value your visit.

And what about your Uncle Hanna?

Whatever the dispute, he intervenes to defend you.

He is so keen on reconciliation

That he cannot be admitted into paradise

You had better murder Sami Nagui Nagib too.

To be honest, I have my doubts about him.

He might be one of them.

He might even have a cross tattooed on his arm.

No, even better, bomb Shubra;

The Kit Kat and Opera House Squares;

Make a grave of the crater in each of these places.

The locals can take it as a warning.

Our God is called The Generous One.

One day you may appear before Him.

You will stand in His presence

And He will ask: What did these people do to you?

For what crime did you kill them who and how and why?

So tell me, hero, how will you respond, what will you say?

May God comfort the families of the victims, bring to justice the culprits, and protect Egypt from similar violence this Christmas season.


Launching “Books” with Libyan Poetry

If you look to the column on the right hand side of this page you will notice a new link – “Books” – which looks to chronicle what we read. A few times in this blog we have been able to write a book review of recent reading which has aided in understanding Egyptian society. Other times we have referenced a book which we have not read, but perhaps have interviewed the author or just remembered its general usefulness. The “Books” link is an effort to congregate all this information in one place, so that you can read along with us, if you care to.

The lead item in “Books” is not of this nature, however, but rather focuses on books we have had a hand in producing. Before moving to Egypt we lived in Tunisia, where among other activities I worked with a local author and publisher to translate books from Arabic into English. The first of these has come to print, which, oddly enough, is a selection of poetry from a Libyan author, entitled “The Journey of the Blind”.

I enjoyed making the translation, and though it might seem counterintuitive, translating poetry was actually a little easier than translating prose. This might not be true with classical poetry, but this author uses a modern style, which left me free to arrange meanings keeping with his style, but without the burden of having to worry about meter or rhyme.

Below is a selection from his works, selected because it is my favorite, dealing with issues of travel, home, and belonging.



I saw in the road

My old horse

Which my grandfather gave to me

Before he died,

And after he informed me

Of the dangers of travel,

Of night, of beautiful women, and of sailing,

And after he informed me

Of the dangers of the road, and thieves.

Do not let the beautiful women

Steal your little heart in the morning.

The road is before you, my dear little boy,

The road is before you,

He informed me and then closed his eyes.


In the early morning

I saw him praying,

In the paths of my homesickness,

In the forest of names and languages,

In the very cells of my body.

And I heard him say:

The best of all homelands is my home,

And the most beautiful of seas.

You see it in the sand,

In the high palm tree,

And in the mirage.

My grandfather told me

In the language of the elderly:

Do not go away,

For the people on the other side of our sea

Walk towards a distant gloom.

Do not go away, do not go away.


Beware of the distance of the road.

Of this he informed me

               Before he fell asleep,

                           Before he fell


Benghazi 1968

You can see an image of the book by clicking here: Cover – Journey of the Blind

The collection is available for purchase; my parents have been kind enough to agree to mail a copy to anyone interested. Full information is found under the “Books: Translations” link. Other titles referenced there can be purchased through Amazon, which if bought through this site provides us with a small percentage of the price. Not enough to persuade you not to borrow the book from the library, but on the off chance a summary catches your fancy and you would like to see the binding on your bookshelf, if you are kind enough to consider us, we appreciate it. Thanks.