In the wake of the recent attacks against the Copts
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, (Romans 8: 28)”. With these words Pope Tawadros II addressed In the wake of the recent attacks against the Copts
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, (Romans 8: 28)”. With these words Pope Tawadros II addressed the congregation last Wednesday during the weekly prayer meeting he holds. It was the first meeting since the attacks against the Copts in the populous Cairo district of Khusous on Friday 5 April then, two days later, at St Mark’s cathedral in Abassiya, Cairo, in the wake of the funeral service for the Coptic dead. The attacks left seven Copts dead and dozens injured.
The Pope’s absence during the period following the attacks against the Copts in the Cairo district of Khusous and at St Mark’s Cathedral earlier this month—especially after his conspicuous non-appearance following news that he would be presiding over the funeral service for the victims last Sunday—gave rise to conjectures and fears that the Church might have been under threat. Later, it was rumoured was in retreat at the Western Desert monastery of Anba Bishoi as a gesture of protest against the official handling of the attack, especially at the lost justice where Copts are concerned.
Praying for those who wrong us
Pope Tawadros II thanked those who had offered their condolences, especially the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the civic movement MPs who formed a delegation and visited him for that purpose, and a number of security chiefs.
He said that the inexplicable assault against the Copts, especially the unprecedented attack against St Mark’s which he described as the symbol of the biggest Church in the Middle East, gave rise to feelings of pain, grief, and anger; and ought not to be relegated to history while no official action is taken.
The officials, he said, promised to carry out thorough investigations and bring the culprits to justice. “The Church will not abandon its demand that the law should be enforced, and the families of the victims adequately compensated.
“The attacks are a disgrace to our beloved Egypt, and place it among the countries which do not honour human rights.”
The Pope defended the Church’s participation in a conciliation session in Khusous, saying that, since the law “was put to sleep”, this was the only alternative left to allow the people there to live in peace and go out to work to earn their daily bread. As to the police arrests among the Copts, he said that the policy of “balancing accounts” was not fair and not acceptable because it takes us outside the field of the law.
“For some 41 years now,” the Pope said, “Parliament has been in possession of the famous Oteifi Report which analysed the causes of sectarian strife in Egypt and proposed measures to tackle it, but nothing was ever done. Attacks against Copts became more frequent and more vicious; the perpetrators are known but never caught. The Copts are frustrated, angry, and grieved. We need fair laws to end discrimination and to instate equality in building of places of worship.”
The Pope ended his word by reminding that we will go on praying for those who wrong us, and for Egypt and all its people.
Where justice comes from
After more than a week away from the papal seat at St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, Pope Tawadros II, who was expected back last Monday, made a surprise comeback Sunday afternoon and directly rushed to hospital to visit those who had been injured in the recent attacks against the Copts.
On Tuesday morning, he received at St Mark’s the families of the seven Copts who had lost their lives in the recent attacks. It was a closed meeting that lasted for some 30 minutes during which the media was kept out.
Abdel-Muizz Attiya, the brother of the Khusous victim Marzouq Attiya, 45, told Watani that the Pope gently offered them his condolences and blessed them. Attiya, who is closely following on the official investigations, did not appear to trust that justice will take its course, and said that only God can ease the pain he feels at the loss of his brother. Attiya’s daughter, however, insisted that justice must be served. “It’s the only thing we owe my father,” she said.
Morqos Kamal’s brother, Magdy Kamal, told Watani that he was the one who raised his brother since their father died when Morqos was only nine months old. “I saw him grow up, and I helped him get an education and get married, only for them to rob him of his life at 25,” Kamal said. He said that his brother went down to defend the church as soon as he heard that it was under attack; he was the first shot there.
It defies reason
Yet talk of justice brings about bitter criticism from the locals in Khusous. “We all know the perpetrators of the attack; there are no secrets here,” Boutros Guindy, a resident of Khusous, told Watani. “We all heard Mustafa al-Agalati use the mosque microphone to scream out lies that the Copts were killing the Muslims in Khusous, and that the Muslims should clear the neighbourhood of the ‘unclean Christians’.
“There’s also Karim Bascota who was among the hooligans who attacked the Copts in front of Mar-Girgis church. There are video shots of him there shooting gunfire and hurling Molotov cocktails.
“But both Agalati and Bascota run free while a number of Khusous Copts have been caught by the police. Are the Copts victims and offenders at the same time? Have they burned their own houses, ruined their cars and church property, and killed themselves? Can’t the authorities see that this defies reason?”
The tears of the mother of Hilal Saber Hilal flowed unchecked as she mourned her 21-year old. She was inconsolable. “I don’t know why they killed my boy,” she said. “He was on his way back from work when a number of men came out of nowhere and asked whether he was a Christian or Muslim; when he said he was Christian they stabbed him with a knife. He fell, and they drenched his body with gasoline and set him ablaze.”
“When he was in the hospital I kept on telling him ‘you’ll get better and be just fine’, but he only said ‘Christ wants me, Mum’”, she sobbed. Hilal died in hospital four days after he was taken there. The after-death report declared that the death was owing to burns over 75 per cent of his body.
Hilal’s father appeared more composed and said that Divine justice will redeem his son, but he wished that official justice would also be served.
The Pope prayed for the members of the families of the deceased, and gave them golden crosses and pictures of the saints for comfort.
21 April 2013