Published in the 12/4/2915 edition of the Catholic Weekly.
It was with joy and sorrow that Father Youssef Akladious prayed Good Friday’s liturgy at St Mark’s Coptic Catholic parish.
In his homily he spoke of forgiveness, and of hatred. Two relevant themes for Egypt’s Christians this Easter.
Of the 21 young Coptic men murdered by ISIS in Libya, he explained,
“Whenever there is great injustice, the choice to forgive is even greater and more wonderful.”
The ISIS victims, who in February were canonised by Pope Tawadrous, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Community, have deeply affected Egypt’s Christians.
“Real forgiveness can even be offered to our enemies,” Father Akladious said.
“I saw great stillness in them at the moment of their deaths, they were surely praying,
As a priest, they made me ask myself, would I do the same? Would I die for Christ?” he said.
Moheb Salama, Youth coordinator at St Marks, confirmed that persecution isn’t a new phenomenon for Copts.
“Christians in Egypt have the strongest faith in the Middle East, probably the world. Their faith increases in proportion to their number of persecutions.”
“I thought, ‘These people know they’re about to be slaughtered, they’re seconds away.’ I looked at my own life, and my own issues, and they were all minor by comparison.”
Equal rights and political protections for Copts have not yet been achieved in Egypt, where civil liberties are generally uncertain.
“The reality in Egypt is that there are safety and stability issues for both Muslims and Christians. We have an improvement to make in regards to the fair execution of the rule of law, and this will take years to achieve…” Father Akladious said.
Last week’s Muslim protest attacks, against villagers in Upper Egypt’s Al-Minya province, confirms this lack of security and protection for Egypt’s Christians. The villagers proposed to build a church to commemorate the 21 martyrs.