Today, we embark on a new year in our lives. We carry with us the vestiges of a departed year that brimmed with achievements, failures, disappointments and challenges. Egypt takes firm steps on the path of reform and development, but her people pay a hefty price in terms of economic imbalance. The country perseveres in a bitter battle against terrorism and firmly believes she has to come out victorious but, inevitably, terrorism occasionally strikes and claims innocent, precious lives.
The all-time Church of the Martyrs, the Coptic Orthodox Church, herself steps into the new year with the heartache of her most recent blood offering: the Boutrossiya 27 martyrs who were blown up by a suicide bomber as they attended Sunday Mass on 11 December. The martyr count is still on, since many of those injured in the bombing lie in critical condition in hospitals; no one can predict whether or not they will survive. Christmas this year—Copts celebrate Christmas on the 29th of the Egyptian month of Kiahk, which coincides with 7 January—is thus steeped in the fragrance of martyrdom. The birth of Jesus the Saviour will be celebrated in tandem with our parting with the Boutrossiya martyrs. But the Church stands firm in her faith in God and the nation.
Egypt in her entirety—her President, institutions and people—stood as one with the Church and the Copts amid the horrendous experience. National mourning was officially declared for three days; an official funeral led by President Sisi was held for the martyrs; the identity of the terrorist who blew himself off at Boutrossiya was announced one day following the bombing; his accomplices were identified and caught. The Construction Department of the Egyptian Armed Forces is working day in day out to restore Boutrossiya in time for the congregation to celebrate Christmas there.
In all integrity, I never had any qualms about reconsidering an opinion I sounded, in view of changes of what had given rise to this opinion in the first place. I now again do so. On 24 July 2016, I wrote on the horrendous [Islamist] terrorism that targeted Minya Copts: “Where is President Sisi as all this takes place? Does he still bet on the Copts’ love and loyalty for him despite his silence before this dismal, explosive situation? Will he use his customary warm, honeyed rhetoric to stress that Copts have full citizenship rights even as he leaves them victim of one blow after another because of an administration that allows culprits to get away with their crimes time and again? He ought to know that his credit of Copts’ love is diminishing just as their anger rises. If the violence and injustice against Copts remain and he takes no action to rectify matters, I feel obliged to whisper in his ear: Do not visit St Mark’s Cathedral on Christmas Eve to wish the Copts a Happy Christmas; you might find nothing there but grim faces.” [http://en.wataninet.com/opinion/editorial/minya-independent-islamic-republic/16955/]
Today, after the President’s firm handling of the recent terrorist attack, and the sincerely warm sentiments he displayed in the wake of the Boutrossiya tragedy, I owe him deep respect, appreciation and love. Once again I whisper in his ear: Mr President, do visit St Mark’s on Christmas Eve. I am confident Copts will engulf you with their love and appreciation. We welcome your visit, Mr President.
1 January 2017