1476) Speechless

Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable

Coffins are carried to the funeral of Egyptian Christians killed in Palm Sunday bombings.

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By Jayson Casper, April 20, 2017, at:  http://www.christianitytoday.com

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     Twelve seconds of silence is an awkward eternity on television.  Amr Adeeb, perhaps the most prominent talk show host in Egypt, leaned forward as he searched for a response.

     “The Coptic Christians of Egypt … are made of … steel!” he finally uttered.

     Moments earlier, Adeeb was watching a colleague in a simple home in Alexandria speak with the widow of Naseem Faheem, the guard at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the seaside Mediterranean city.

     On Palm Sunday, the guard had redirected a suicide bomber through the perimeter metal detector, where the terrorist detonated.  Likely the first to die in the blast, Faheem saved the lives of dozens inside the church.  (Even so, forty-five worshipers were killed in two suicide attacks.)

     “I’m not angry at the one who did this,” said his wife, children by her side.  “I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you.  Believe me, we forgive you.  You put my husband in a place I couldn’t have dreamed of.’”

     Stunned, Adeeb stammered about Copts bearing atrocities over hundreds of years, but couldn’t escape the central scandal.

     “How great is this forgiveness you have!” his voice cracked.  “If it were my father, I could never say this.  But this is their faith and religious conviction.”  Millions marveled with him across the airwaves of Egypt.

     So also did millions of Copts, recently rediscovering their ancient heritage, according to Ramez Atallah, president of the Bible Society of Egypt, which subtitled and recirculated the satellite TV clip ( https://vimeo.com/212755977  ).  “In the history and culture of the Copts, there is much taught about martyrdom,” he told Christianity Today.  “But until Libya, it was only in the textbooks—though deeply ingrained.”


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/212755977″>Forgiveness Incarnated</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user22194617″>The Bible Society of Egypt</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

     The Islamic State in Libya kidnapped and beheaded 21 mostly Coptic Christians in February 2015.  CT previously reported the message of forgiveness issued by their families and the witness it provided.  “Since then, there has been a paradigm shift,” said Atallah.  “Our ancestors lived and believed this message, but we never had to.”  Now they must, and now, even in death, the Copts forgive.

     For example, the night of the bombings, Orthodox priest Boules George said he loves those who did this crime.  Speaking to a congregation in Cairo, his words were broadcast on the popular Coptic TV station Aghaby.  “I long to talk to you about our Christ, and tell you how wonderful he is,” said George, addressing the terrorists.  But then turning to the church, he said, “How about we make a commitment today to pray for them?  If they know that God is love and experience his love, they could not do these things—never, never, never.”  You may view his amazing “Message to Those Who Kill Us,” (with subtitles) athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO6MwqDlIYY&feature=youtu.be

     Clearly the Coptic heritage and Jesus’ teaching have an impact on the aggrieved…  The traumatic impact and subsequent forgiveness have overcome Coptic lethargy, reviving the church.  The services of Holy Week have doubled in attendance, and the churches are flowing out into the streets…

     This Coptic defiance is not only against an enemy outside, according to Bishop Thomas of Qusia.  It is also against the Enemy within.  He said the Libyan martyrs were a turning point, as Copts watched the victims call out to Jesus in their moment of death.  In his Orthodox diocese 170 miles south of Cairo, many have since repented of sin and changed the focus of their life, making faith a priority.

     “Martyrdom is linked to the Christian life. To carry your cross and follow him,” said Thomas.  “Since we are united to Christ, in this life we are his image.  As he forgave, so must  forgive.”

     “The families of the martyrs are promoting a worldview that is 180 degrees contrary to that of the terrorists,” said  Ehab el-Kharrat, a licensed psychiatrist, former member of parliament, and an elder at Kasr el-Dobara Evangelical Church (KEDC) in Cairo.  “The great majority of Egyptians now carry deep respect for the Copts, who are viewed as patriotic people of faith.”

     Muslims had Christian ancestors, said Ramiz Atallah, and the Coptic heritage is strong…  Middle Eastern culture, however, is based on honor and shame, demanding revenge…  Within this clash of cultures, Atallah said many are now witnessing Christian forgiveness, and find it to be exactly what the country needs.

     Besides frustrating the extremists who want to provoke the Copts, Christians like the widow of Faheem are winning over Muslims as well.  “Their testimony is like a domino, with incredible ramifications in the country,” Atallah said…  The spiritual ramifications run even deeper for Bishop Thomas, who has recently received many unexpected visits of sympathy and solidarity from local Muslim sheikhs and charity workers.  For the past 15 years, his school in Qusia has been a home of civic engagement for Muslims and Christians, discussing ethics and child-rearing for the sake of their kids.  But now Muslims are asking about other issues altogether.

“When people see this attitude from Christians and the church, they ask themselves, ‘What kind of power is this?’” he said.  “But with this witness we must also declare the message of Christ, which we are fulfilling— literally. We may not see the response immediately.  But we will in the near future.”

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Matthew 5:16  —   (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

I Peter 3:15-16  —  In your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

I Peter 4;16  —  If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

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Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.

–Habakkuk 3:2

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