When I was teaching my last class at Florida State, it had over 125 students and I was assigned a doctoral student to assist with grading. I knew of her from workshops around campus and was glad for the help. It didn’t take long for her to be in tune with me and she was habitually cheerful, dependable and very bright.
One thing that cheered her was how, in one of our office chats, she mentioned that she was a Christian from Egypt. “Ah, the Coptic Church,” I said, and she thought it was great that I knew of it. Now, I’m an old school Missouri Synod Lutheran but I knew a little bit about her church and was glad to learn more firsthand.
Tracing its origins all the way back to St. Mark, the Coptic Church has been seated in the ancient city of knowledge, Alexandria, where Alexander the Great established his library. The Coptics were among the originators of monastic scholarship and, responding to a call from the Roman emperor Constantine, helped shape the Nicene Creed, which is still recited today in churches of many denominations.
In the current climate of 21st Century Cairo, we would be well-served to remember an incident from the 2011 demonstrations that ousted Hosni Mubarak. On February 2, 2011, when Muslims at prayer (salah) in Tahrir Square were exposed to violence, a band of Coptic Christians linked arms and made a circle around them so that the violence would pass the Muslims.
Fast forward two years and Coptic Churches are being attacked during the skirmishes between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Army.
To put it bluntly, church burning is always evil. A black church being torched in the United States is every bit as depraved an act as these attacks in Egypt. Places of worship should simply be out of bounds for any conflict between civilized people. These places exist, in whatever form, to guide people to live good lives, comfort them in hard times, and give them hope about what lies beyond.
Tonight, spare a thought for those being assaulted in Egypt and worldwide, simply because they seek something better.