My sincere condolences to all the Egyptians for the martyrdom of Archpriest ArsaniousWadid few days ago, we all believe he joined the rows of martyrs who occupy the greatest rank, praying for God to keep Egypt from all evil.
Martyrdom is man’s bearing witness to the faith he believes in.Idiomatically, it refers to being killed for God. In Christianity, “martyrs” is a title given to all who bear distresses because of their faith, whether they are killed or not. Today, we call martyrs all those who accept to offer their lives as a sacrifice of love and faith to God, getting murdered for their religious identity. It is quite remarkable across the 2000-year-old history of Christianity that martyrdom has always been surprising for the whole world, as martyrs are seen meeting death fearlessly with ultimate courage, longing and joy, as if they are attaining what they had waited and longed for, this had always amazed their torturers and persecutors!
In Christianity, martyrdom began with the birth of Lord Christ and the murder of the children of Bethlehem, then at the Holy Flight to Egypt, a number of Egyptians were martyred like Martyr Wadamon of Armant. All Lord Christ’s disciples, except for John the Evangelist, were martyred. Violent waves of persecution were triggered, in which martyrs had watered the seed of faith with their blood, Egypt has had the lion’s share in the number of martyrs, that it was said, “If the whole world’s martyrs were put to balance against the Coptic Church’s martyrs, the Coptic Church’s martyrs would outweigh”. The Coptic Church still presents martyrs in our modern age, including -but not limited to- Martyr Priest RuwaisZakher of Abu-Tig, Priests Mina Aboud and Raphael Moussa of Al-Arish, Martyr Archpriest SamaanShehata of BeniSuef, Martyr Archpriest ArsaniousWadid of Alexandria, the Martyrs of Libya, the Martyrs of the two accidents of the Road to Saint Samuel the Confessor’s Monastery, the Martyrs of Al-Botroseya Church, Saint George’s Church in Tanta, Al-Keddisin Church of Alexandria and many more others.
Having a quick glimpse on the life of martyrs, we realize it is crowned with several virtues like having ultimate courage fearing nothing even death, bearing pains and suffering in a way that amazed the persecuting governors, steadfastness, patience and strength that never faints under the burden of pain, along with amazing meekness that never rebels,nor riots, nor seeks self-avenge! The words of the Theban Legion, whose all members were martyred, shall act as a perfect example; they wrote a letter to the Roman Emperor, saying: “Great Caesar, we are your soldiers, but at the same time we are God’s servants… We are not rebels, we have weapons with which we can defend ourselves and disobey you, but we would rather die innocent than live impure!We are fully prepared to bear all kinds of torture you may inflict on us! Because we are Christians and we openly declare our Christianity…”
As for the martyrs’ right, we believe it will never be lost. Cain received God’s punishment for his horrible deed of killing his brother Abel, “And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”
Saint John the Evangelist reassures us that God will avenge the martyrs on their murderers: “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.”
God maintains longsuffering towards the wicked, which is nothing but a chance He -blessed be His name- grants out of the abundance of His countless mercies, a chance to test the trust of those who believe in Him, a chance for the sinners to repent and regret the evil, and a chance for all people to walk justly. However, the time will inevitably come when God avenges for all who have been oppressed, persecuted or killed for righteousness and faith. Indeed, how horrible is the time of that certain judgment, as “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Egypt is a country living with one heart that beats with the pulse of every Egyptian who lives on its land or in any part of the world. We have learned since childhood that our country lives in our hearts; we carry it wherever we go, working for its prosperity and peace. So we all need to:
• Recognize and accept the meaning of societal diversity through understanding the other that lives in our society.
• Confirmthe values, principles, and dealings of coexistence and equality among all citizens, without placing a category of citizens in a lesser position, or depriving them of their rights, duties, or lives just because of differences in gender, race or religion.
• Instilling “respect and appreciation” towards each of the country children; these two values are among the most important rules and pillars of coexistence among the members of society, they are the secret of societies’ advancement and loftiness. A society cannot be advanced unless itinstills in its citizens all the meanings of nobility, genuineness and respect.
The slogan “Homeland is for all” was raised in 1919 revolution, which demonstrated the unity of the Egyptian people for the sake of the freedom of their country. Citizenship has emerged in the thought of equality between the people of the one nation, which has been expressed by leaders throughout history, and which we seek to achieve in every era. And…Stories about beautiful Egypt never end!
The General Bishop
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center