Problems on hold
Last week, the road leading to the Western Desert Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor, some 220km southwest Cairo, was scene of a terror shooting that left seven Copts dead, 15 injured, and survivors that suffered immeasurable terror and heartbreak. This was not the first shooting on that fateful road; it was the second in the space of 17 months. The first shooting occurred in the same spot on 29 May 2017, claiming 28 lives.
My heart goes out to the bereaved, grieving families; and prays for the injured. My thoughts and sympathy are also with the Church which, with every terror attack against her, is severely tested on two counts: First, her faith; and second, her love for Egypt. As to the first, the Church has time and again displayed unwavering faith that does not shy away from martyrdom, and has firmly stood by Christ’s teaching of facing violence not with counter-violence but with prayer, peacefulness, and forgiveness for enemies. On the second count, the Church has invariably proved her faithfulness to Egypt. Wisdom led her to realise that the terror that strikes against her targets Egypt in the first place, and that the only means to conquer terrorism is for Egypt’s Muslims and Christians to stand as one, joining hands with their president, government, police, and army.
I strongly feel for Egypt as she wages a relentless uncompromising war against the gruesome devil of terrorism that insists on tearing her apart and lies in wait for any opportunity to strike innocents. But Egypt will never let this devil shatter her or bring her to her knees.
With every terror strike against Copts, we chafe against the hard times, grieve for the martyrs, and agonise for the bereaved and the injured. And every time we find ourselves divided into two camps: one denounces the security pitfalls and police failure to protect people, calling for accountability on that front. The other camp reminds of the savage, extended war against terrorism conducted by the police, security forces, military and special forces. This war detects terrorist hotbeds, destroys their strongholds, arms and ammunition, and aborts countless attempts by terrorists to break Egypt. It takes a huge toll in lives and cost on those who wage it, yet it is the only way Egypt can ever hope to live in peace and security.
It is common knowledge that the war against terror does not answer to the military tradition that governs confrontations between combatting armies, where enemies are well-defined, combat scenes clearly charted, arms balances known, and planning and tactical skills alone determine who ultimately wins and who loses. Unfortunately, there are no rules, no scenes and no military considerations to be followed in the war with terrorists. And no matter how many victories are won, they lurk in the dark lying in wait for a new prey.
The road where the recent crime took place is a highly dangerous unpaved road that is out of reach of any communications or mobile network, which makes it an easy playing field for terrorists. We thus demand of the State authorities to take speedy measures to pave, secure and connect this road. Until this is done, however, pilgrims and travellers should not be allowed to take the road without the necessary security of police escort. Such escort is offered to local and international tourists on lonely or high-risk roads, so why not offer it to pilgrims on risky paths until these paths are well-secured?