In an attempt to honor the contribution Dr. Martin Luther King has made to the cause of peace, I intend to craft a blog entry each day of this work week highlighting some person or group who is heroically promoting peace in the way of Jesus. Today, I focus the spotlight on some brave and compassionate Egyptian Muslims.
On New Years Eve, terrorists savagely murdered 21 Coptic Christians at Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt. Apparently, the perpetrators of this heinous act identify themselves as Muslims, and their act of brutality, the latest in a series of deadly assaults on Egypt's Copts, made international news.
Like many around the world, I grieved when I read the report. As an outsider, I wondered if there was any hope for peace in Egypt. A week later, I found the hope I was looking for in a news report that moved me to tears, this time tears of joy.
Copts celebrate Christmas on January 7. According to the news story, militant Islamic websites called for further attacks on Coptic churches as they gathered for their Christmas eve services. When Copts gathered for worship anyway despite the threats, many Egyptian Muslims formed human shields around them and declared, "We either live together, or we die together!"
Here are excerpts from the story as reported online at http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/3365.aspx.
Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.
From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.
“This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly Street. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”
In the days following the brutal attack on Saints Church in Alexandria, which left 21 dead on New Year’s eve, solidarity between Muslims and Copts has seen an unprecedented peak. Millions of Egyptians changed their Facebook profile pictures to the image of a cross within a crescent – the symbol of an “Egypt for All”. Around the city, banners went up calling for unity, and depicting mosques and churches, crosses and crescents, together as one.
BBC posted a similar albeit less-detailed report at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12133656.
I wish this story of sacrificial love among religious neighbors had more of the world's attention. Jesus taught that we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and these Egyptian Muslims did just that. They put themselves in harm's way in order to secure for the Copts the religious freedom and safety they want for themselves and their families. They promoted peace in the way of Jesus, and their act of love, compassion, and bravery moved me to tears.