On the Message of Bishop Raphael to Coptic Mourners

From Ahram Online, during the funeral sermon for Copts killed in sectarian violence in Khosus, but before the attack on the cathedral itself:

“This deep wound, which is not the first of its kind, leaves me with three messages in my heart,” said Rafael.

“One is to the heavens…We [Copts] believe in heavens’ justice…Christ taught us that he avenges the blood of the martyrs and that the martyrs’ blood is not forgotten by God,” he said, to which mourners responded by chanting: “With our souls and blood, we will protect the cross.”

“My second message is directed to Egypt: We will not leave…governments cannot rule by shedding blood,” Rafael added, to which mourners responded: “We will not leave; this is our country!”

“My third message is directed at Egypt’s Copts: We shall not abandon our faith,” the Bishop concluded. “The bloodshed only makes us embrace our faith even more… We will not compromise our religious ethics, which call us to love all.”

Bishop Raphael is the general bishop for the region of central Cairo, and was one of three candidates for the papacy following the death of Pope Shenouda. His first message is one of patience, but the people responded aggressively.

His second message was of anger, and is odd. The government did not kill the Copts of Khosus, though most Copts are very frustrated with President Morsi and the failure to properly investigate sectarian attacks since the revolution. Perhaps he refers to the bloodshed in Egypt under Morsi’s administration in general. Whatever his meaning, the people responded with a haughty and defiant assertion of their status as the original Egyptians.

His third message must set everything right, and the response of the people is not given. Perhaps that is appropriate, as the next stage is not yet written. Egyptian Christians are facing a tremendous challenge, and their spontaneous reaction was to return violence against attackers and security forces alike.

There is a legitimacy of defending the cathedral; enough has happened in Egypt so far to have made them fear the worst. But it is their call to Christian ethics, to love, which must take hold of clergy and laity alike.

It is no guarantee of success, but it is the way of their faith. Will God prove faithful? If so, how? It is not usually in ways which equate with our comfort.

Rarely, however, has so much been asked of believers.

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