A little over a week ago, the world stopped for a moment on hearing the news of 21 Coptic Christians, murdered by ISIS on the shores of a beach in Tripoli. Coptic Christians don’t get much attention on the world stage, but this was different. The pictures of those orange clad men on the beach surfaced everywhere, the stories of their lives gaining more attention every day.
We are a people of short attention spans, so what has not gotten attention is how Egypt itself has responded to the killings. Coptic Christians are familiar with persecution, and often it is at the hands of their fellow Egyptians. Yesterday I received a poem forwarded to me from my husband. Egyptians at the Bible Society of Egypt wrote it to be distributed in a pamphlet, along with other verses of comfort and hope. By Thursday they had printed over one million copies ready to distribute across Egypt.
This is hope indeed. Several times I have said that the people most afraid of ISIS are those who are sitting on comfortable couches in well-designed living rooms. As I pass on this poem, my hope is that we, in the often spiritually bankrupt West, are challenged by our brothers and sisters in the East.
Two rows of men walked the shore of the sea,
On a day when the world’s tears would run free,
One a row of assassins, who thought they did right,
The other of innocents, true sons of the light,
One holding knives in hands held high,
The other with hands empty, defenseless and tied,
One row of slits to conceal glaring-dead eyes,
The other with living eyes raised to the skies,
One row stood steady, pall-bearers of death,
The other knelt ready, welcoming heaven’s breath,
One row spewed wretched, contemptible threats,
The other spread God-given peace and rest.
Who fears the other?
The row in orange, watching paradise open?
Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?
Two Rows by the Sea©Bible Society of Egypt
I would be remiss if I did not speak to the many others who have been brutally murdered or displaced by ISIS. In early November I sat with women and men in a refugee camp, all Yezidis, all affected by ISIS. They lost their homes and the lives they knew; many watched beloved family members killed. My husband came back from Erbil two weeks ago. He too sat with people who had to flee their homes because of ISIS. In all these places — Egypt, Turkey, Iraq — the Church is coming alongside the grieving, offering comfort and hope.
Picture Credit: Bible Society of Egypt