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Pastor Turns Terrorist Hostage Video into a Testimony

Nigeria Hostage Video

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on January 13, 2020.

A hostage video released last week by Boko Haram did far more than issue another Nigerian plea for rescue.

It revealed a modern-day Shadrach.

“By the grace of God, I will be together with my wife, my children, and my colleagues,” said Lawan Andimi, a Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) pastor in the troubled northeastern state of Adamawa. “[But] if the opportunity has not been granted, maybe it is the will of God.

“Be patient, don’t cry, don’t worry. But thank God for everything.”

It is testimony even to his captors, said Gideon Para-Mallam, the Jos-based Africa ambassador for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES).

“This is completely different from most hostage videos,” he said. “[Andimi] appeared as one who has already conquered death, saying to his abductors…”

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

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Egypt’s Christian Women Treated Like Muslims in Inheritance. Until Now?

Nasrallah Kamel
Nasrallah (L) and Kamel (R), both working to address Coptic grievances, find different receptions from the state. Image: Associated Press / Jayson Casper

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on December 5.

Two stories here, so the article deck is an important follow-up to the headline:

Meanwhile, Coptic activist who insists true religious equality does not yet exist goes to prison on terrorism charges.

Here’s the intro to the first:

Coptic lawyer Huda Nasrallah may have won a great victory for Christian women in Egypt. Last week, a Cairo court ruled in her favor, dividing the family inheritance equally between her and her two brothers.

Nasrallah’s verdict followed the decision of two other courts to reject her appeal on the basis of the sharia law stipulation that a male heir receive two-thirds of the inheritance.

This past summer, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) took up her cause. In a campaign called “Christian on ID card, Muslim in Inheritance,” it claimed millions of Coptic women suffer similarly.

Coptic men are sometimes all too willing to go along with it, Nasrallah told the Associated Press. But she is “thrilled” by the verdict, and hopes it will inspire other women.

“It is not really about inheritance; my father did not leave us millions of Egyptian pounds,” she said. “If I didn’t take it to court, who would?”

And here is the second:

But a few days earlier, Coptic activist Rami Kamel may have suffered a great setback for all Egyptian believers. He was arrested for his reporting of sectarian tension, and accused of joining a terrorist group.

A founding member of the Maspero Youth Union when Egypt’s military tanks rolled over Coptic protesters in 2011, he later documented sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians.

He is now facing charges of joining a terror group and spreading false information, his lawyer told Agence France-Presse. Additional charges include harming public peace, inciting strife between Muslims and Christians, and agitating against the state.

“There is no credible evidence to support these charges,” said Thabet, who last spoke with Kamel a few days before his arrest. Around 10 days prior, security called Kamel in for informal interrogations as a warning to stop his activity.

But Kamel continued, speaking out against the recent arrest of Khalil Rizk, a Coptic labor rights activist charged with joining a terrorist group.

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

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Friday Prayers for Egypt: Russia, Air and Chemical

Flag Cross Quran

God,

For the first time in two years, Aeroflot returned to Cairo. Russia had suspended all air travel following a terrorist attack on a tourist carrier, and security precautions still prevent direct flights to the popular Red Sea resorts.

Let it not happen again, God.

But as Russian-Egyptian relations return to normal, give discernment in current affairs.

How should the government consider accusations of poison in the UK, and gas in Syria?

Let the truth be known, God, if only to the privy of world leaders. Let Egypt’s president act accordingly.

But give knowledge also to the world community.

Allow heads-of-state the discretion to maneuver. But disclose secret deeds done in darkness. Give no cover to illness in conduct.

None can stand on your holy hill, God. But the heart of a man may yet be made pure. May such men lead their nations well.

Help Egypt stand with many. As necessary, help Egypt stand alone.

Strong. In peace.

Amen.

 

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Is ISIS Really Muslim?

This article was first published in the March print edition of Christianity Today.

Is ISIS Really Muslim

For Egyptian Christians, 2017 was the deadliest modern year on record. At least 87 were killed by terrorists.

But despite being labeled by ISIS as its “favorite prey,” Copts were only 12 percent of such fatalities last year. Far more Muslims died in extremist violence at the hand of fellow believers.

Unless they aren’t believers at all.

If American Christians often don’t know how to understand Islam, they can take some comfort knowing that Egyptian Muslims struggle too.

A tragic case study occurred in December, when more than 300 people were killed at a Sinai mosque belonging to a Sufi order. Sufi Muslims are known for their mystical practices in search of spiritual communion with God. Many also seek intercession at the graves of Muslim saints.

In casual but solemn conversation at an upper-class organization in Cairo, one well-educated Egyptian woman reflected on the tragedy with colleagues. “Yes, but they are Sufis,” she said. “They’re not really Muslims.”

The woman was not making light of the massacre, nor justifying it. But she had internalized a message preached by another type of Muslim—Salafis—who judge Sufi practices to be outside the bounds of orthodox Islam. And when Salafis become jihadists, they may well kill Sufis as apostates.

In angry conversation with a middle-class taxi driver in Cairo, one typical Egyptian denounced ISIS for its crimes against both mosques and churches. “No, we can’t say that they aren’t Muslims,” he said. “Of course they are.”

What causes such confusion? Innocent victims, praying in a mosque, are placed outside of Islam while murderers, salivating at the entrance, remain in the faith?

At issue is a pernicious concept in the Muslim world called takfir in Arabic. It means the process of calling someone a kafir—an infidel…

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

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Friday Prayers for Egypt: Operation Sinai

Flag Cross Quran

God,

There are three weeks left. Following a terrorist attack that killed 300 worshipers at a mosque in Sinai, the president gave a three-month ultimatum to the military and police to eliminate terrorism.

Today, Operation Sinai was launched. By land, air, and sea, in the desert and the Nile valley, a massive deployment seeks to fulfill the president’s call.

Parliament, al-Azhar, and the Orthodox church have all signaled their support. Perhaps the next few days will be telling.

But proof comes in the next few weeks. Terrorism hides easily. And surely many wish to disrupt the coming presidential elections.

God, protect.

Guide security to hideouts and depots.

Shield civilians from wayward fire.

Redeem terrorists from the judgment of Hell.

In the days to come, God, death counts will rise. Comfort the families, strengthen the nation.

Let the operation be decisive. Purge Egypt from the scourge that has plagued her.

May she seek peace, and pursue it.

Amen.

 

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Egypt Says Muslims Who Die Defending Churches are Martyrs. One Just Did.

Helwan Church Attack
(via Ahram Online)

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on December 29, 2017.

In the latest terrorism to strike Egypt, nine people died in Friday morning attacks around St. Mina Church in the southern Cairo suburb of Helwan.

Two Coptic Christians were shot and killed in their nearby storefront. Six others died as they exited morning worship.

The remaining victim was a Muslim police officer guarding the church.

Local reports suggest there were two gunmen. One was apprehended by security forces, foiling his efforts to enter the church. State television showed a second attacker killed, wearing a suicide belt. ISIS claimed responsibility.

The church guard, meanwhile, was hailed as a martyr.

One week earlier, Egypt’s Minister of Islamic Endowments declared the guarding of churches to be “a legitimate and national duty.” Those who die defending Christian houses of worship are to be considered martyrs.

“In our war against terrorism,” said Mokhtar Gomaa, “there’s no difference between Muslims and Christians.” Last month, 300 people were killed in a terrorist attack on a mosque in the Sinai, where Christians have fled violence.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi praised the police effort against the “vicious” attack, and urged heightened security. Two weeks ago, Egypt assigned more than 230,000 police to guard churches in advance of the Christmas holidays.

Even so, last week hundreds of local villagers ransacked an unlicensed church in Atfih, 60 miles south of Cairo. They were offended at rumors the nondescript building would install a bell.

Meanwhile, the Coptic Orthodox Church will hold its primary Christmas celebration in the largest church in Egypt, on land donated by the state in its still-under-construction new administrative capital city. (Orthodox Christians commemorate Christmas on January 7.)

Muslims should join Christians in solidarity, said Ahmed al-Tayyib, grand imam of al-Azhar…

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

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Friday Prayers for Egypt: Churches

Flag Cross Quran

God,

A small group of terrorists killed worshippers at a church in southern Cairo.

A large mob of neighbors vandalized a different church further south.

A sizeable allotment of police and military guarded churches throughout the country.

A fair portion of churches remain closed for security reasons.

A tiny percentage of services suffered disruption to normal worship.

But God, any number is too high.

And any spirit that targets faith is too evil.

It is present in Egypt, God, as it is present elsewhere. It is hard to defeat.

Protect those who protect the nation. In today’s attack one died, as they killed one assailant and captured another.

But give wisdom also to those who govern. Exorcise this spirit at its source, to purge it completely.

And of those infected, heal them in your mercy.

Of the recalcitrant, marginalize. Of the ideologues, expose. Of the manipulators, arrest.

Strengthen the nation to resist, God. Give her courage to confront.

A little leaven leavens the whole bunch. May Egypt rise.

Amen.

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The Floating Interfaith Bridges to Sinai

Floating Bridge Sinai
(via http://www.suezshipyard.com.eg)

Buried in an Ahram Online story about Egypt’s efforts to develop the restless northern Sinai region is a testament to the nation’s insistence on shared identity.

Terrorism in the region has killed Muslim and Christian alike. Part of the problem, analysts say, is that Sinai has been long neglected.

Isolated from the Egyptian mainland, tribal society has been penetrated by militants who draw on a sense of frustration with the state.

President Sisi has promised “utmost force” to eliminate terrorism. But he also recently inaugurated projects to address the economic conditions. These include pathways across and below the Suez Canal, to better link with the rest of Egypt.

Two of which bear special names.

El-Sisi also inaugurated two floating bridges in Ismailia and Qantara, which are named after Ahmed El-Mansi and Abanoub Gerges; two army personnel who were killed in Sinai in the line of duty in recent years.

As every Egyptian knows, Ahmed is a Muslim name, and Abanoub is Christian.

Dozens of security personnel have been killed fighting terrorism. I wrote recently of how casualties cross religious lines.

But to commemorate an bridge connecting Sinai to the mainland, Egypt connects its martyrs from each faith.

The nation has a long way to go to defeat sectarianism, and many may look cynically at a bridge when a church gets ransacked. Just this week a mob attacked in offense of a rumor that a nondescript, not-yet-licensed church would add a bell.

Do not unduly laud Egypt over the name commemoration; it is a far simpler task than civic education.

But neither underestimate its symbolism. Egypt would be much poorer without it.

Video of the opening of both bridges, issued by the Suez Canal Authority (Arabic only). The man on the right is from Bir al-Abd, the Sinai village that suffered the mosque attack, and interrupts the proceedings to say he hopes this accomplishment will help the blood to dry.

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Friday Prayers for Egypt: Utmost Force

Flag Cross Quran

God,

After over 300 people were killed at a mosque, the state must do something. The president issued a directive to the army and police: utmost force, within three months.

Terrorism must be eradicated from the Sinai.

And may it be so. God, but with the utmost care.

There are civilian lives at stake, unmercifully meddled as militants mix in.

There are terrorist lives at stake, still creatures of a compassionate God.

There is the reputation of the state, widely accused of haphazard strategy.

There is the regard of the state, required to be strong in response to insult.

And that is what it was, God. An insult to humanity, to religion, to Egypt, to you.

They showed in their actions the utmost contempt. They deserve nothing more than the utmost chastisement.

In truth, they deserve death. They deserve hell. Equip the military and police to bring them right to its gates.

And once there, overcome.

Overcome conflict in the Sinai with prosperous development. Overcome hatred in the heart with sincere repentance.

Overcome evil with good.

God, utmost force is necessary in the face of wanton violence. But let strong resolve not extinguish compassion. Let broad mandate not diminish precision. Spare the innocent; rescue the region.

Avenge. Restore. Have mercy.

Three months, God. Let it be less.

Amen.

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Copts Ring Church Bells for Egyptian Muslims, in Christian Sympathy

My new article for Providence Magazine.

Copts Church Bells Sinai
Photo Credit: Church and mosque in Egypt. By kmf164, via Flickr.

In what is being called the largest terrorist attack in modern Egyptian history, over 235 people were killed at a village mosque. Militants detonated explosives as worshipers exited the Rawda Mosque in Bir al-Abd, 25 miles west of the North Sinai capital of Arish. Several then fired upon the fleeing masses.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion falls upon the Islamic State. The Rawda mosque is affiliated with the Gaririya Sufi order, and ISIS has previously vowed to attack what it deems to be heterodox Muslims, warning them to stop their distinctive rituals. ISIS represents an extreme Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, and is offended by Sufi practices that seek a mystical connection with God through chants and visits to the shrines of Muslim saints.

In 2013, a Sufi shrine was bombed with no casualties. But in 2016 two prominent Sufi sheikhs were kidnapped and decapitated.

Coptic Christians, who have seen over 100 people killed under an ISIS vow, responded with condemnation and sympathy. The next day, Saturday the 25th, the Coptic Orthodox Church spokesman announced all churches in Egypt would ring their bells in solidarity at noon.

“We pray to God that Egypt is preserved from such unprecedented brutal terrorism,” the church announced in its first statement, released shortly after the bombing. “We offer our sincere condolences to the families of the martyrs, praying for the healing of all who are injured,” stated the second announcement about the bells.

Such a public display of Christianity will only further infuriate ISIS…

Please click here to read the full article at Providence Magazine.

 

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A Christian Death in the Western Desert

Desert Martyr 4

Egypt suffered another terrorism setback this week, as a shootout with militants in the Western Desert resulted in the death of at least 16 policemen.

That is the official, government tally. International media reported much higher figures, though the government dismissed their numbers and an alleged recording describing the chaos in the field, saying they were unsourced and reflecting unprofessional conduct.

Much speculation focused on the groups behind the attack, whether ISIS from the Sinai, Muslim Brotherhood linked militants, or a rogue army officer perhaps affiliated with al-Qaeda.

The government has launched an investigation, but it is also conducting funerals. Less well reported is this human side of the tragedy, causing Egypt to cancel even a major tourist festival in solidarity with the slain, when the sun shines directly on the face of Ramses II in Abu Simbel.

Desperate to revive the tourism industry, Egypt is more keen to maintain security commitment and morale.

Part of the task is to honor all dead. And among them was Boutros Sulimian Masoud, a Coptic Christian conscript from Ezbat Yacoub Bibawi in Minya. Military figures and Azhar sheikhs were on hand, draping his casket with an Egyptian flag.

Also honored was an army officer named Muhammad Wahid Musalhi. Bishop Makarios of Minya represented the church in both occasions.

And both figures are called ‘martyrs’, as per Egyptian practice, by both church and state.

Consider what you will theologically, but Egypt has suffered a multiplication of martyrs in recent years.

On the one hand, where the term is more familiar, Christians have been targeted by terrorists, though Muslims have also died in the carnage.

On the other, the army and police have been targeted by terrorists, irrespective of religion. Egypt is understood to be 10 percent Christian, and they die beside their brothers in the service.

The Egyptian security services are integrated, drawing all in general conscription. Copts sometimes complain they are kept out of senior positions until promotion at retirement, and that conscript deaths sometimes are under-investigated. But they are grateful for their place in the national army.

It was only in the mid-19th century that the Muhammad Ali dynasty lifted the jizia tax and enrolled Copts. Classical Islamic jurisprudence says that jizia is meant in part to protect Christians living in a Muslim country, that they need not participate in foreign jihad or defense of the nation.

But one of the most powerful proofs of citizenship is mingled blood, fighting side by side against a common enemy.

The pictures here were distributed by the Coptic Media Center and represent Egypt as she idealizes herself. One nation, three religions, one people mourning all.

It does not cover up the flaws, but it is a reminder to Muslim and Christian alike of what Egypt is meant to be.

This, too, is important to report.

Desert Martyr 2

Desert Martyr 3

Desert Martyr 1

Tahya Masr, al-baqa’ li-llah, nayyihhum.

 

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Friday Prayers for Egypt: Starts and Fits

Flag Cross Quran

God,

It can be difficult to begin again. Promising signs give way to more trouble. Egypt is looking to rebuild after several hard years of revolution.

Be with her.

The president has launched a new administrative capital city to house government by the end of the decade. But will it end as previous efforts, Cairo conquering all?

A new traffic law is drafted to better driving habits and reduce congestion. But is there will for proper enforcement, culture conquering all?

New Japanese-model schools are ready to open to instill better sense of discipline and education. But delays come with lack of transparency; corruption conquering all?

The military appears to be making gains against militants to quell terrorism and quiet the Sinai. But attacks continue as desperation rises; can a security commitment conquer all?

Tourism is rebounding from historic lows as beach and history are made more beautiful by depreciation. But the economy falters as inflation increases; can foreign currency conquer all?

God, give patience. God, give urgency.

Egypt is in a tricky place. There is enough stability to move forward. There is enough inertia to hold back.

So give wisdom. Give competence. Give vision. Give realism.

Give hope to the people. Give systems of merit and justice. Give space to live and thrive.

Give a new start, and fit all together. Trouble will come, and hard years continue. But rebuild.

Begin again, with your promise firm. Bless Egypt’s people. May they be yours.

Amen.

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Friday Prayers for Egypt: Base, Council

Flag Cross Quran

God,

Terrorism is defeated neither by force nor ideology. Yet they dare not be neglected.

Egypt took a step in both directions this week. God, give her success.

A military base was inaugurated toward the Libyan border. And the president formalized an anti-extremism council, with representatives also from the Azhar and Orthodox church.

May the day come when no base is necessary. May men know you themselves with no need of clerics.

But until then, God, and in these days especially, raise every encumbrance against terrorism.

Raise the capacity of the military. Raise the morality of the people.

But mostly, redeem the conscience of the extremists. Win them to yourself.

There are always ways to do evil. Its final defeat is only in you.

Amen.

 

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Friday Prayers for Egypt: Death and Cancelation

Flag Cross Quran

God,

Five more policemen were killed today. Several high-profile militants were killed this week. And to avoid adding their number to the roll, Egypt’s churches canceled summer activities for the next three weeks.

The intelligence services are finding material – warning the Christians and raiding the hideouts.

Yet extremist elements are finding recruits – threatening Christians and targeting checkpoints.

God, the cycle must end somewhere. May it be with the least blood.

Criminals must be found, God. But give them justice greater than death. To the degree possible, help raids end in capture.

Peace must be established, God. But give Egypt justice greater than security. To the degree possible, help rights end in responsibility.

Death comes for all, God, when you will it. But in Egypt the past several years, it has come too soon for too many.

In eternity you cancel death. May Egypt live as if you canceled it now.

Amen.  

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Terrorist Threat Forces Egyptian Churches to Cancel Summer Activities

My new article at World Watch Monitor.

Church Trips Canceled
Egyptian Christian children gather round the country’s flag in a group activity, Aug 2012

The churches of Egypt are temporarily shutting down their summer activities.

“I asked all our churches and conference centres to cancel their trips and events for the next three weeks,” Dr. Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, told World Watch Monitor. “There is news they could be targeted by radicals.”

An unofficial translation of his official statement reads: “Warm greetings in the name of Jesus. In light of recent developments, please stop all church trips and conferences [for] the next three weeks of July 2017. This is a serious matter. Any trip or conference [that continues] will be the personal responsibility of the organiser.”

Zaki confirmed the information came directly from the security agencies. Fr Boules Halim, official spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, told World Watch Monitor his denomination issued similar instructions, asking churches to wait for further information once the three-week moratorium expires.

Please click here to read the full article at World Watch Monitor.

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How the Egyptian Church Secures Itself

This article was first published at TIMEP.

Cairo Abbasiya Butrusiya
St. Peter and St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, bombed December 2016 – Creative Commons on Wikipedia

This past Palm Sunday two suicide bombers killed over 45 people at two churches in northern Egypt. One made his way all the way to the altar at St. George’s Cathedral in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, while the other was stopped at the gate outside St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, where he detonated his explosives. These attacks—along with the December 2016 bombing of St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Church at the cathedral compound in Cairo, the May massacre of 30 Copts in Minya, and ongoing violence in Arish and elsewhere—have raised questions about the Egyptian state’s ability to protect Christian citizens from the threat of terrorism. But amid the breakdowns, church leaders have developed routines and relationships with security authorities to provide a joint system of security.

On Easter Saturday evening, the chief Easter celebration in Egypt, I went to the midnight vigil at a Coptic Orthodox church in Cairo. The streets were cordoned off and a barrier channeled the throngs of worshippers through a tight security check. Police vans with heavily armed officers were everywhere. Yet as I approached behind several Egyptians getting their bags searched, a layman from the church caught my eye and motioned me forward. Nodding to the police, he allowed me to quickly pass through the metal detector and into the service.

One week later, it seemed Easter had been an aberration. The normal two to three policemen kept watch on the church from a distance. A couple church doormen glanced casually as I walked by them after passing through the metal detector. Yet in conversations with several church officials about internal security, they seemed satisfied that the apparently reduced police presence offered sufficient protection…

Please click here to read the full article at TIMEP.

 

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Righteous Anger: Egypt’s Christians Respond to ISIS

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on June 1.

Tanta Martyrs Shrine
Shrine to the martyrs of Tanta in St. George’s Church, killed by a suicide bomber on Palm Sunday.

They couldn’t even wash their dead.

Thirty Coptic Christians were gunned down by ISIS, ambushed in a church bus on a weekend outing to a popular monastery in the Egyptian desert. Their families gathered to receive their loved ones in a local hospital, but were met with a mixture of ill-equipped facilities and overwhelmed staff. They even had to fetch their own water.

As if another reason was necessary, Coptic anger turned the funeral march into a protest.

“With our souls and blood we will redeem you, oh Cross!” they shouted. Some seemed to take aim at Islam. “There is no god but God,” they chanted, before changing the second half of the Muslim creed, “and the Messiah, he is God.”

Other chants took no aim at all, thrashing wildly in anger. “We will avenge them, or die like them.”

Many observers say such anger plays right into the hands of ISIS, which is keen to turn Egypt against itself.

Six weeks earlier, after twin suicide bombings on Palm Sunday, Bishop Boula of the Coptic Orthodox diocese of Tanta found himself in a similar situation. Hospitals did not have enough refrigeration units to keep the 25 bodies of those martyred at St. George Church. Crowds were gathering, and anger was surging.

Quickly, he made the decision to bury them together in the church crypt reserved for bishops. Honoring the dead with their leaders of ages past, he then marshaled the youth to provide order and security for the semi-spontaneous funeral service.

“It cooled the fire of all the people,” he later recounted on satellite TV. St. George was renamed to include “the righteous martyrs of Tanta,” with a shrine erected outside the crypt.

It was perhaps the most practical of Coptic efforts to process their anger. Forgiveness is another, as Copts have moved Muslims and wowed the world with their example

 

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

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Terrorists Kill 26 on Church Bus Trip to Popular Monastery

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on May 26, 2017.

Minya Bus Attack
(via Reuters and Ahram Online)

Terrorists ambushed a Coptic church bus trip on Friday near Minya in Upper Egypt, killing at least 26 and injuring 25, including many children.

Egypt’s interior ministry reported that three 4×4 vehicles of 8 to 10 gunmen dressed in military uniforms opened fire on the vehicle, which was on its way to St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Samalout, 140 miles south of Cairo.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack—which occurred on the eve of Ramadan—follows church bombings claimed by the Islamic State on Palm Sunday and in advance of Christmas.

Last week, Egyptian authorities arrested 48 individuals, securing confessions of belonging to a terrorist cell linked to the Islamic State.

“I am grieving. It is sad and shocking,” said Bishop Thomas of the Coptic Orthodox diocese of Qusia, 75 miles from the monastery. “But at the same time, I know this is not new. I was expecting things like this to happen. And it will not be the last.”

Please click here

to read the rest of the article at Christianity Today.

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Friday Prayers for Egypt: Judges, Tribes

Flag Cross Quran

God,

Two feuds escalated this week. One reached a preliminary conclusion, the other a concerning jolt. It may not be proper to pray mend the fences, but rather in wisdom to put all things right.

After months of debate and clear judicial opposition, the president signed a parliament-ratified bill to select the chief judge of major courts from three nominations. Viewed as anti-constitutional interference and a blow to seniority, it is nonetheless law, pending further developments.

After months of tense but nonmilitant local opposition, the Islamic State struck against a major tribe in Sinai. Recriminations followed, and the fight is threatening to move beyond the licensed violence of army and police and involve the well-armed Bedouins.

God, politics is often contentious. Ensure efficiency in policy. Define limitations of power. Where there is manipulation, cause it to cease. Where there is exaggeration, cause it to settle.

In the effort to strengthen both state and society, give wisdom. Give humility.

God, violence is often compounding. Empty the Sinai of terrorism. Rebuild the region in hope. Where there is insult, curb retribution. Where there is injury, increase resolve.

In the effort to defeat the Islamic State, give wisdom. Give clarity.

All men are brothers, God, and it is not right to feud. But perhaps a fight is sometimes necessary. Settle scores quickly, and justly. Limit escalation, mend fences.

Put all things right, God. Put Egypt right.

Amen.

 

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Friday Prayers for Egypt: Aya, Easter

Flag Cross Quran

God,

Easter passed peacefully, but not Egypt. Though there were no troubles on the holiday, others sandwiched.

A few days earlier Copts praying in a village were pelted with stones, as police looked on. A few days later terrorism struck at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the southern Sinai, as police responded.

One officer died, a few others were injured.

God, protect the nation. Protect her churches. Protect her people. Protect her police.

The disturbing fact in the latest incident was the reach of ISIS to the south. Cells have perpetrated terrorism in various places on the mainland, but it was believed the group had no presence save northern Sinai.

So hem them in, God, and squeeze. Aid the security forces. Grant bravery, justice, and fidelity to law.

It was law also that settled justice for Aya Hegazi, a dual Egyptian-American citizen. After three brave years in pretrial detention, the court ruled against charges filed. She and her husbanded had opened a children’s center, and were accused of exploitation.

President Trump claimed intervention, and flew her home before meeting at the White House.

God, protect the judiciary. Protect its independence. Protect civil society. Protect its people.

If Aya was innocent, how many others? In a congested legal system give all their day in court, in fidelity to the constitution. As Egypt responds to the pressures against her, help her hold to the right and the true.

So steady her institutions, God, and strengthen. Aid the social entrepreneurs. Grant creativity, license, and fidelity to law.

Whether religion, state, or society, give stability and peace. Too many make trouble. Root out, vindicate.

Amen.