When one is lost for words and the pen staggers, I go back to what I had once written, in an attempt to feel my way. I took up my pen to write about the glorious Nativity of Christ, the celebration of which always fills us with joy for the love and peace it embodies. But my pen froze as a lump formed in my throat and tears welled in my eyes at the pain inflicted by last week’s terror strike against the church of Mar-Mina in Helwan. Nine innocent Egyptians lost their lives; some for their Christian faith, others for going to church to worship, and one for valiantly guarding the church. Admittedly, it is the fate of Egypt to battle terrorism, and she will eventually triumph against hatred and evil. Yet the families of the victims are grief-stricken and bereft; they look for solace in the God of love and peace.
One year back, on 1 January 2017, I wrote an editorial which I titled: “Christmas with the flavour of martyrdom”—Copts celebrate Christmas on 29 Kiahk on the Coptic calendar, which coincides with 7 January. Back then we were heart broken at the suicide bombing at the Cairo al-Boutrossiya church some three weeks earlier, which had claimed the lives of 28 Copts. I wrote then: “The all-time Church of the Martyrs, the Coptic Orthodox Church, steps into the new year with heartache at her most recent blood offering. Christmas this year is steeped in the fragrance of martyrdom”.
As I went through my writings on the year’s incidents, I was reminded of the two suicide bombings on Palm Sunday in April 2017: one at the Tanta church of Mar-Girgis and the other at Alexandria’s St Mark’s. The grief coincided with Holy Week; I recalled the words of Christ on the Cross: “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” I am sure the Helwan martyrs heard the same words as they left earth to join the glory of Heaven.
This time round, it is the wisdom words of Pope Tawadros II, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, that give me comfort. In appreciation, I mark his message to the families of the Helwan martyrs: “We believe our life is in the Hands of God. He is the Pantocrator; nothing escapes Him, and nothing happens unless He permits it.”
6 January 2018