23 January 2011
The Coptic anger which exploded in the wake of the New Year Eve bombing at the Church of the Saints in Alexandria was fully justified. It is my firm belief that this anger went beyond the direct crime and its horrifying outcome, and extended to cover a long history of blatant discrimination against Copts, marginalisation, and inequality. However, I also reject the destructive, tumultuous, mobbing wrath; there can be no excuse for outlaw fury. Copts need to understand they are not alone in their anger and grief; Egypt in its entirety has proved it is also grieving and wrathful. The Coptic grievance has fused into the national concern, and it is of the utmost importance that this national endorsement should not be lost.
The last weeks have brought great instances of national solidarity in the wake of the Alexandria crime. Egyptian Muslims have gone out of their way to offer their condolences and to condemn the heinous crime. As neighbours, colleagues, friends, or even utter strangers, all expressed their sympathy, agony, and shame at what had taken place in Alexandria. To all who apologised in their capacity as Muslims for a crime committed by fellow-Muslims, I say that the apology was unwarranted; the entire nation has been hit and we should all join forces to save the homeland we share.
I received a plethora of letters commenting on the terrorist crime in Alexandria. Some carried expressions of blatant anger, but others hoped to exploit it in the direction of reform. But one particular letter especially touched my heart. It carried a piece of free poetry written by Laila Farag who, despite being a dear friend, insisted I should identify her as “an Egyptian woman”. I thought, however, that I should cite her name as a role model for the expression of a noble grief.
Under the title: “Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath.” (Rom 12: 19), Ms Farag writes:
“To avenge ourselves would mark defeat,
And to remain silent is no answer.
My God, guide me and tell me
What to do? What would be right?
Silence is not necessarily strength,
It could even mark an idle feebleness.
Do we kill in revenge? That’s no answer;
You have always said:
Forgive, tolerate, love and give.
Yet we still need an answer for what to do.
In your love, be strong and positive,
Raise your voice, shout and say:
Right should be instated for all who lost it,
And oppression should never be given way.
For so long have we been told to forgive,
But we were never given answers.
For so long have we been taught to bear hardships in silence
And told not to scream or to revolt.
I will not ruin or destroy,
But I wish to shout at the top of my voice:
I have been hurt, and my hurt is deep
And I positively reject all oppression.
I won’t be vicious; I’ll be forgiving
And follow in Your footsteps, my forgiving Lord.
You understand us and know our hearts,
You know our anger will not last long.
You will calm me down so that I would
Decently, strongly demand my rights.
Lord have mercy, Lord give comfort,
Lord give guidance, and heal souls and minds.