I pulled myself out of bed and put an end to another long insomniac night. Sleep had been unattainable since the news of the army dispersing the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) sit-ins that were occupying the streets of Cairo, Egypt took center stage, and the anticipated violence and terrorist attacks by the ousted President’s followers were swiping the country from one corner to the other, as they had promised.
Filled with exhaustion after several sleepless nights, I crawled out of bed and back to my computer screen that I bid goodnight few hours earlier. The crickets were screeching in the silence of the hot August night, dense with humidity. I felt the heat of the blazing fires that burned down the churches in Egypt, fifty of them, few thousand miles away. I saw the dark nights glowing with the flames and smelled the smoke; it had choked me in my dreams. The images of the destroyed churches, monasteries, religious institutes, and the nuns captured by the terrorists and paraded in the streets like prisoners of war will be engraved in the minds of millions of Egyptians.
Two weeks before the celebration of the Virgin Mary’s assumption to heaven, on August 22, many Copts (Egyptian Christians) around Egypt were left with no church to attend their mass in. The Copts had been targeted by the MB terrorists in unprecedented acts of violence against them in the history of modern Egypt. Burning their houses of worship was a direct attack on their faith that left them in pain, anger and humiliation, and left Egyptians and the world in shock at the atrocities committed by these terrorists towards the people of the Book (Believers of the Abrahamic Religions)
My heart swelled with heaviness and gloom as I contemplated about the escalating events in Egypt, the country of my birth. As a result of the forceful dispersion by the army after all negotiations to a peaceful end to the sit-ins, that had been disrupting and terrorizing the lives of Egyptians for almost six weeks, failed, the MB members (terrorists in disguise), went on a wild burning spree that torched the country. Police stations and 50 churches were burnt in retaliation. They had promised twice to burn down the country and ignite a civil war. The first time, if Morsi lost the elections, and the second time, if he was not released from jail after his arrest on July 3rd. The terrorists of the Muslim Brotherhood organization indeed delivered on their promise.
Escalating the violence was the first step to create a chaos to destabilize the country. In a calculated move, they torched down the churches to provoke the Copts, to incite violence and to ignite a civil war between the two factions of the society; the Muslims and the Copts. The followers of the ousted Morsi blamed them for the role they played to bring down their President. Had they abstained from joining the marches against Morsi, they would have been saved, Morsi’s terrorists explained. That was just a lame excuse to cover up for their hatred and hostility they have been carrying in their hearts towards the Copts all along.
A beam of light illuminated the streets of Egypt on Jan 2011 when the revolution against Mubarak rocked the country. Muslims and Copts took the streets side by side in the revolution that ousted Mubarak, defying all their fears and the consequences had the revolution failed. Death didn’t differentiate between the faiths of the young people who lost their lives. Their blood mixed on the asphalt and their mothers shared the same grief of losing a loved one. For the first time ever the church choir performed in public, on the Tahrir Square stage, where church hymns were chanted by all attendees, in a very emotional moment that prompted hope in restoring the national unity. In this time of crisis, it seemed that the partners of the nation were properly introduced to each other. Coexistence, tolerance, acceptance were words that have been used in the past, but they were felt for the first time in the hearts of the millions that gathered in Tahrir Square. The future looked hopeful – the horizon looked brighter.
Then Morsi came to power. The president in his acceptance speech forgot to mention all the partners in the nation. For him and his organization, the Copts don’t exist. He never mended any fences with them. On the contrary, sectarian tension escalated, violence never stopped against the Copts and the Pope’s headquarters in Cairo were attacked by MB supporters in broad day light under the watchful eyes of Morsi’s security forces. History will record that Morsi’s year in office witnessed the first attack on the seat of Christianity in Egypt in more than 1,400 years.
After his failed year in office, Copts felt they were not the only ones targeted by the Muslim Brotherhood’s regime. Together with everybody else who didn’t belong to the MB camp, they were all in the same boat sailing towards an unknown fate. And when the Egyptians were called upon to take the streets on June 30th demanding Morsi’s resignation, Copts were back in the front lines side by side with their counterparts. And the revolution resulted in the ousting of Morsi and elevated the wrath against the Copts from his supporters.
After the churches were burnt down to the ground, the Pope of Egypt issued a statement that the Copts won’t just sacrifice their churches for Egypt, but also their lives. A strong message that all Egyptians are standing united against the destabilization of their country. The churches will be built again. But the churches are not made up of just walls and roofs. They are made of faith that resides in the hearts of millions of Coptic Egyptians. The Copts of Egypt have put their lives and their faith in the front lines for their country and the least they should expect of her is to re-evaluate their relationship. Only a constitution based on equality between all factions of the country will help to mend their broken hearts, erase the feelings of humiliation and restore their pride and dignity.
May the celebrations of the Virgin Mary’s assumption to Heaven bring back Peace to the land where The Holy family took refuge two thousand years ago. The land of Egypt that was mentioned in all the Holy Books will forever remain blessed.