The martyrs who lost their lives at Boutrossiya church during Sunday Mass on 11 December when a suicide bomber blew himself up now have an icon to commemorate them. The blast claimed 27 lives and still counting, since a number of those critically injured may not survive. The wide majority of the dead were women and children, since the blast took place at the southern rear door of the church where mostly women and children sit. Coptic churches are built to face east, so that the sanctuary is on the east side of the church.
The “Martyrs of Boutrossiya” was painted by the young iconographer Bishoi Rasmy who posted on his Facebook page a description to the icon.
The 90X65cm oil-colour icon depicts a woman in the fore, he explains, representing all the women who were martyred in the bombing; on her left stands a little girl who symbolises the martyred children.
On the right hand of the woman in the icon stands a man, Nabil Habib, the church guard—raising his hand in reference to his attempt to stop the bomber as he entered the church. Mr Habib, fondly called Amm Nabil (Uncle Nabil) by Boutrossiya congregation, had rushed in behind the suspicious-looking stranger [the would-be bomber] but the terrorist was too quick and directly blew himself up; Amm Nabil was killed. The icon depicts him as holding a stick and a cross in his right hand, symbolising the honest guard of the church that he was, and the man who died for his faith.
Under the feet of the woman, the painter depicts the terrorist in green, a colour which symbolises evil in the Book of Revelations. The Church conquers evil, as promised by Jesus Christ in the Bible: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).
The church stands in the background with smoke clouds drifting out of the building. Incidentally, Boutrossiya is currently undergoing repair and restoration by the Construction Department of the Egyptian Armed Forces who have promised the church would be ready for worshippers to celebrate Coptic Christmas on 7 January.
The martyrs in the icon are clad in pure white for the new life that welcomes them in Heaven, and don sky-blue scarves that symbolise their elevated thoughts as they attended Holy Mass when the blast occurred. They hold red sashes denoting the blood of martyrdom.
On the top left-hand corner of the icon, the hand of Jesus Christ appears at the moment of “the union of the all-holy body and precious blood of our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ”, in invitation: “Tell those who are invited, ‘See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast’,” (Matt 22:14).
28 December 2016