23 January 2011
A bomb intended to shatter a people generated unity instead of disarray. On New Year Eve, a bomb at al-Qidiseen church in Alexandria killed over 20 people and wounded so many more. For many youth who have grown up in diaspora because our parents escaped Egypt in hopes of giving us a better life, sectarian violence in Egypt was distant, even non existent, a thing conjured up by our parents## paranoia. We knew about churches in Egypt needing permits in order to make basic repairs, and it upset us, but many of us simply shook our heads in disapproval, then shrugged our shoulders and turned back to our daily routine. Then a bomb went off in our hearts.
On 2 January hundreds of Copts braved the rain in Los Angeles to protest against and to raise awareness of the daily injustices that Christians in Egypt endure. The gap that often serves as a barrier between parents raised in Egypt and children raised in America was bridged as tears did not discriminate between young and old. Nine days later, on 11 January, a date chosen to reinforce the fact that as Christians, We Are All One, hundreds of Copts in Los Angeles again stood on the same corner where we had rightfully raised our voice in protest, and with candles in hand, we raised our voices in prayer. We prayed for the souls of those martyred. We prayed for the steadfastness of those Christians in Egypt who daily endure injustice; who, because of their great love for Christ, cannot advance in the work place, and cannot obtain justice against those who steal from them, injure them and kill them. We prayed for the unity and peace of the church and the strength and wisdom of our leaders. We prayed for the repentance of those who kill us, knowing that they are plagued by the disease of hatred. And we prayed that as Christians, we would not suffer from the same disease by returning hate for hate, but rather that as our faith is tested we can embody Christ’s teaching and His example by loving our enemies.
And in some way it seems at least one prayer has already been answered. Change in Egypt will not come overnight, but the unity of the members of the Coptic Church, which has always been one of its greatest strengths, was rekindled in that fleeting moment that changed the lives of so many of us. In America, parents and children forgot about the generation gap that separated them. Demonstrations world wide showed the unity of Copts in diaspora—Americans, Australians, and Europeans by nationality, but many of whom are Egyptian by race, and all of whom are Christian by choice – all standing in solidarity with one voice, recognising that as one body, when one part of the body suffers, the whole body feels the pain.
Though our church is built on the blood of our martyrs, the slaughter of our brothers and sisters and the institutionalised discrimination they endure in Egypt will always be atrocious and inexcusable. But to those who raise their sword against us—we thank them for refueling our commitment to one another and, more importantly, for refueling our commitment to Christ.
Susanna Khalil is a wonderful second generation Copt, an attorney, and a Sunday School teacher at St. Mark Coptic Church, Los Angeles.