Today Egyptians are talking about nothing but the displacement enforced on a number of Coptic families in Arish.
After a flurry of killings, dozens of Coptic families decided it was time to leave northern Sinai and head west across the Suez Canal to a safer environment. Terrorists in the area have sworn they won't leave any Copt in peace, and soon afterwards they stepped up their attacks on innocent civilians.
This is the latest in hundreds of incidents in which Copts have been victimised and terrorised.
A Coptic alcohol vendor was brazenly murdered as he innocently sat smoking his shisha. The killer came up from behind him, in itself a cowardice act, and slashed his throat. Arrested soon afterwards, the killer said he had warned the victim against selling alcohol, which, to him, was reason enough to perform this act of pure savagery. The victim’s family spoke in sorrow of their loss, but no vindictive act followed.
Weeks earlier a suicide bomber killed 27 Copts as they prayed in church. The assailant walked between the women’s aisles and detonated himself amidst innocent children and mothers. Egyptians, all Egyptians, mourned the dead and the injured. Still, the massacre, as many others before it, passed with no further reverberations.
In 2014, Mary Sameh George, driving close to a Muslim Brotherhood protest, was dragged out of her car, beaten and stabbed to death. She met this harrowing death because of a cross that was hanging from her rear-view mirror. The family and community mourned the brutality, but did not oppose God’s will, believing that Mary had gone to a better place.
As far as Libya, Copts are victimised. In February 2015, 21 Coptic Egyptian workers were beheaded in a gruesome but detailed propaganda stunt by Daesh (the Islamic State group). The men, wearing bright orange and leaning down, were behead from behind by their killers, their bodies dumped into the Mediterranean. In other circumstances this could have led to a fury of bitterness, but again peace and acceptance strengthened the victims’ families.
In this case, as in no other, the army vindicated the dead by carrying out an air strike early the morning after. It targeted Daesh camps and training sites. Even if Egypt had not pursued revenge, it is unlikely that Copts would’ve protested.
When radical Islamists wanted to retaliate after Rabaa Square was evacuated by force, they chose to retaliate against Copts first, and later the security apparatus. Dozens of churches, Coptic-owned businesses and homes got stormed and torched, and many Copts were attacked.
The village of Delga was a scene of total mayhem whereby the government simply lost the fight. Morsi supporters drove the police out and occupied the police station. For a period, while many Copts fled, others had to pay to be protected. A Copt was killed in his home, chained to a tractor, and dragged across the village. Priest Iskander Taous's half-naked body was chained to a scooter and dragged around town, too.
The reaction of Copts was humbling. In a service in one of the burned churches in Upper Egypt, the reverend asked church members to forgive the rioters. He quoted what Jesus said of his attackers on the cross “They know not what they do.” And a church member said, “We pray today for everyone who wronged us, with all love; for each one who extended his hand with an axe, for each one who extended his hand with fire, or stole from the church.”
Enough already: the incidents are in the thousands; we are all aware of them.
Copts throughout hardships grieve silently, smile amidst sorrow, and listen to the beckoning of their leaders who call for peace and non-violence while enduring the pain and intolerance. Retaliation as a concept does not exist amongst them, but acceptance does. Copts never once demanded much; they merely continue to live their lives accepting whatever God sends them even if it is brutal and violent.
Watch Maggie Moemen’s mother grieve and you will understand the meaning of faith and belief. Maggie was the 10-year-old who became the 27th fatality in St Peter Church explosion. Having remained in a coma for several days, she finally succumbed to her death. Maggie’s mother, Nermine Samir, is the epitome of acceptance. She has no hatred or fury. Believing her daughter is in heaven with God, she doesn’t even ask for retribution.
Tyranny in general triggers revenge but not with Copts. When a young Black man is killed by the police force in the US, five NYC police officers are shot dead. When over 600 Muslim Brotherhood members die in Rabaa Square, Egypt suffers until today. Israelis react instantly if one of their own is harmed.
Revengeful acts take place between one group and the other in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and the whole world. The world is up in arms, and yet Copts accept their fate and whatever god sends them in a stunningly peaceful fashion.
And this is why Egyptians should count their blessings and their lucky stars that Copts are who they are. Despite the horror Copts endure day in and day out, they live on deeming such horrors as something God wants for them. They are told to “… love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matt 5:44) And they follow the advice with no ifs, ands or buts.
As Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King had both once said, “An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.”
The writer is an academic, political analyst, and author of Cairo Rewind: the First Two Years of Egypt's Revolution, 2011-2013.