Terrorism in church ... Unwavering unity

Ziad Bahaa-Eldin
Wednesday 14 Dec 2016

My deepest condolences go out to the families of those murdered in the heinous act of terrorism which last Sunday targeted the Church of St. Peter, worshippers, and all of Egypt.

I wish the injured a speedy recovery and all Egyptians peace, harmony, and the capacity to overcome this tribulation.

This is a truly taxing time, with much pain and serious consequences. But if the goal of Black Sunday’s crime is to fracture the unity of the Egyptian people, spur domestic turmoil, and inflame sectarian strife, this goal will not be realised. In fact, it has become even more unattainable.

Neither this crime nor another can cut the bonds of national unity forged over thousands of years of history and shared existence, nor shake the foundation of a society whose members are used to bearing the good and bad side by side.

The youth who expressed anger and vented their rage at media commentators, politicians, officials, and the state can be excused by the shock, pain, and injury.

But this isn’t the time for blame, reckless accusations, or scapegoating, nor for scoring political and media points at the expense of the victims. It’s time to band together and overcome this trial, and to devote ourselves to the injured and the families of the victims.

There is a time for blame, accountability, and punishment, and it will come, but first we must discover the truth; we must know what happened, who did the killing and who helped, who incited to it, who laid the groundwork, and who was derelict in their duty.

That the attack took place in the church during the Sunday service made it all the more shocking. In this sense, it’s a sectarian crime, targeting Egyptian Christians with the goal of breaking national ranks and inflaming strife.

But though the motive of the crime was sectarian, all of us Egyptians—Muslims and Christians—must refuse to see it as such. Instead, we should see it as a crime against all Egyptians, regardless of sect or community, an assault on the freedom of belief guaranteed to all citizens, the destruction of a unique historical site in our shared civilisation, and the indiscriminate terrorising of citizens in this nation.

If we insist on this—that we all have a stake here—we will have succeeded in thwarting the goal of the terrorist plot and protecting our national unity. And let's remember that terrorism makes no distinctions of religion, faith, or culture; its victims come not from one confession or class.

It has touched everyone, most recently the victims in three terrorist incidents last week alone. They are all martyrs. All gave their lives to the nation and all deserve respect and prayers for mercy.

We also cannot be content with watching, mourning, and being angry. Each of us can take a practical, positive stance to express our feelings. Solidarity means not only being present at the hospital or giving blood.

It’s demonstrated in dozens of initiatives and actions, even symbolic. A phone call is a positive act. So is checking up on friends and relatives and offering assistance and moral support, and so is every kind of communication, even phone and electronic messages.

These aren’t secondary or meaningless. Their value lies in the sense of solidarity and fraternity they carry, which we need in these difficult days.

By the same token, impassioned, but fleeting feeling is inadequate. We must cling unfailingly to the values of citizenship, equality, and respect for others’ freedom, faith, and houses of worship. We must continue to strive for a more just, merciful, and cohesive society and act to uproot violence, terrorism, and economic, social, and cultural extremism—not only deal with its repercussion while ignoring the causes.

I have had numerous opportunities to visit the Cathedral Complex in Abbasiya, especially the St. Mark’s Cathedral, at times for personal and family matters and often on public occasions, on Christmas and Easter, at the funeral of the Maspero martyrs, under the Brotherhood, twice when the president was in attendance, and at the funeral of Pope Shenouda III and the seating of Pope Tawadros II.

Each time, I felt that my and others’ presence was appreciated and welcomed. It was a source of pride for us and those who welcomed us so warmly.

Last year, I attended the funerals of two distinguished Egyptians at the adjacent, smaller Church of St. Peter, which was the target of the terror attack, the first for diplomat and jurist Dr. Botros Ghali and the second for businessman and public figure Dr. Makram Mehanny. I remembered them and recalled the beauty of this small church while following the rescue mission on television.

This ancient, historical church will never be a symbol of the victory of terrorism or the division of the Egyptian people. It will instead be a symbol of everything we dream of for this country: freedom, justice, equality, and an unshakable unity.

*The writer holds a PhD in financial law from the London School of Economics. He is former deputy prime minister, former chairman of the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority and former chairman of the General Authority for Investment.

A version of this article was published in Arabic in El-Shorouq newspaper on Monday, 12 December.




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