It has been just over a week since a suicide bomber entered the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral complex in Cairo, killing himself and making martyrs of 27 Egyptian Christians. They were mostly women and children attending the Sunday morning service. Two months before, the Anglican Archbishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt, addressing a conference in Cairo, had called for Christians to be “ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Christ.” This has certainly been the experience of Coptic Orthodox Christians, who experienced the loss of 21 lives in 2011 in another Church bombing, and 21 Egyptian Orthodox migrant workers beheaded in Libya in 2015. The leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, preaching at the funeral of those recently killed, said, “It is the destiny of our church to offer martyrs, and that is why we call it the ‘Church of the Martyrs.’”
There is sorrow and anger that such incidents take place, but the Church in Egypt has not turned to violence in response to the violence meted out on her members. Rather than threatening anyone else, crowds of mourning demonstrators offered their own lives as martyrs in defence of the Christian community, chanting, “With our soul, and with our blood, we will defend the Cross.” Such a witness to the desire for peace in the face of almost unbearable provocation has gained respect around the world. But the principled willingness to face martyrdom – and the suicide bomber in Cairo was no martyr – does not justify such indiscriminate violence, either in Cairo or elsewhere in the world where extremists view political or religious violence as a means of furthering a particular worldview.
Europe has not been able to isolate itself from such terrorism in the past, nor in the present. (more…)