A mother’s agony: Son still traumatized 1 year after watching Islamists kill his father

The story below shows what it’s like to live as a Christian in the “moderate” Islamic state of Egypt. Copts are the indigenous Egyptian people whose presence has dwindled to 10 percent of the population. They embraced Christianity under the missionary work of St. Mark, the apostle who brought the Gospel to Egypt not long after the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Egypt was 90 percent Christian until the invading Arab armies conquered it in the 7th century and forced the Copts to convert to Islam or pay the jizya. The Copts have been living in a state of Dhimmitude [second class citizens] ever since. 

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One year on: Mina,10, (left) with Marco, are having to come to terms with having seen their father killed by Islamic militants. Photo: Open Doors International

From World Watch Monitor

Hanaa, a 42-year-old Egyptian mother of four, will never forget taking the phone call that changed her family forever.

It was one year ago. She was having breakfast when her son called to say he and his brother had just witnessed their father being shot to death by Islamist militants.

On May 26, 2017, a convoy of Coptic Christians was traveling to the Monastery of St. Samuel in Minya, 170 miles south of Cairo, to celebrate Ascension Day. Among them were Ayad and his sons, Marco, 14, and Mina, 10.

“I remember it was a very hot day, so my husband and two sons left early for work in the monastery,” Hanaa said. “They were working on the church bells there.”

Their buses were stopped on a desert road in Southern Egypt by eight to ten gunmen.

The Muslim gunmen ordered the Coptic men to give up their valuables, then they were ordered to recite the shahada: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.”

All who would not recite the Islam conversion prayer were shot. No less than 28 Copts were executed that day. Some 25 others were injured.

The boys were spared “to tell the story” of what happens when you defy Islam.

“I was having breakfast with my daughters when the phone rang,” Hanaa recalls. “It was my son calling from his father’s phone. He was crying. He told me they had been attacked and that his father was in a critical condition.”

“I went as soon as I could, together with some family,” she continued. “The ambulance was late, so my nephew Ehab put Ayad in the back of his minivan. My husband was soaked in blood, it was a terrible sight. On the way to hospital Ayad was transferred to the ambulance, but it was too late: He died on the way.”

Hanaa’s grief was immeasurable. But, she said, “along the way God comforted me through the many visits of priests and people who stood with me.”

The support was also good for her 14-year-old son, Marco. Hanaa says he was encouraged by it, and has been very brave like his late father. He is doing well at school, she says.

“[He has] started to go to the monastery to make church bells in his father’s place. He has a strong relationship with God. He always goes to church, especially since his father’s death.”

But she worries for Mina.

“My big concern is for my youngest son, Mina,” Hanaa admits. “This incident has had a huge negative impact on him. He’s always afraid, especially to go anywhere on his own, even to the bathroom. He also can’t sleep alone, so sleeps next to me.”

The situation for Copts in Upper Egypt has become increasingly difficult. Islamic State released a propaganda video in February last year, vowing to wipe out Egypt’s Coptic Christians and “liberate Cairo.”

Egyptian Christians have long complained that the government does not take their security concerns seriously. For their part, officials blame violent incidents on foreign-influenced extremists.

But Hanaa said: “Even though we are very much persecuted here in Upper Egypt, we love our Muslim neighbors. Because our religion is based on love and our God is a God of love. Having experienced this harsh persecution myself hasn’t changed my view: I still pray for Muslims and love them. Our Lord is stronger than their persecution.”

But the loss of her husband is real.

“Ayad wasn’t only my husband. He was my friend and a brother and a father to me. He was everything for me in this life. He was very kind and honest, a man of God, and I am proud he stood by his faith until his last breath. If he could say something to his attackers, I think he’d say: ‘I forgive you and pray that God forgives you, touches your hearts and open your blind eyes to see His way.’ And I would fully agree with him.”

Read more about the persecution of Egyptian Christians.

Egypt: ‘Let them live to tell the story’- boys who saw dad die on the monastery road

Egypt: Coptic mother recalls Minya bus attack that killed her son

Egypt: Copts request new church to honour 28 killed in bus attack

Egypt: Monks want new church in memory of Copts killed in Minya bus attack

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