At midnight of New Year’s Eve celebrations at the Two Saints Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria, Egypt, a bomb exploded as the crowd began to exit, killing 23. The horrific event birthed a tremendous display of Muslim-Christian unity, as a week later on Coptic Christmas churches were packed with Muslims showing solidarity, willing to die with their Christian friends should a similar attack happen again. The local priest in Maadi said that Christmas was the ‘happiest of his life‘.
The unity following the bombing spilled over into the January 25 revolution, giving a power to the demonstrations that has long since dissipated. But at the time it was contagious, capturing domestic and world attention alike, launching the Arab Spring after its birth in Tunisia.
One of the celebrants was Ahmed Fouad Negm, known in Egypt as ‘the poet of the people’ and a firm revolutionary supporter. He died this month on December 3, but is mentioned here for his poem lamenting the Alexandria attack. Thanks to Paul Attallah for bringing this beautiful work to my attention:
These people say God is love
And we all know how dangerous love is.
So, victorious hero, you had to murder helpless women,
Unarmed pensioners and innocent children to save us all
From the terrible possibility of love.
Botros and Mina should be killed.
Their brothers are already dead in Sinai
And their sons danced at your wedding
And offered their condolences at the funerals.
Marie and Aunt Thérèse deserve to die.
They are people of little virtue.
They always smile in a certain way
And say: Welcome. We value your visit.
And what about your Uncle Hanna?
Whatever the dispute, he intervenes to defend you.
He is so keen on reconciliation
That he cannot be admitted into paradise
You had better murder Sami Nagui Nagib too.
To be honest, I have my doubts about him.
He might be one of them.
He might even have a cross tattooed on his arm.
No, even better, bomb Shubra;
The Kit Kat and Opera House Squares;
Make a grave of the crater in each of these places.
The locals can take it as a warning.
Our God is called The Generous One.
One day you may appear before Him.
You will stand in His presence
And He will ask: What did these people do to you?
For what crime did you kill them who and how and why?
So tell me, hero, how will you respond, what will you say?
May God comfort the families of the victims, bring to justice the culprits, and protect Egypt from similar violence this Christmas season.