Sunday, January 2, 2011

Responding to the Bombing

Twenty-one Coptic believers were killed and ninety-seven were wounded by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, Egypt during a New Year's Mass. Egyptian officials claim that the attack was perpetrated by al-Qaida. The Egyptian president vowed, "We will cut off the hands of terrorists and those plotting against Egypt's security."

I cannot fathom the grief of the community of believers as they gathered today for worship. Their suffering is horrifying. Yet, I cannot help but wonder what a faithful Christian response to this tragedy ought to be. 

Notice the initial response of some believers in Egypt:
Soon after the explosion, youths clashed with police, chanting, "With our blood and soul, we redeem the cross,'' witnesses said. Some broke in to the nearby mosque, throwing books into the street and sparking stone- and bottle-throwing clashes with Muslims . . .

Police fired tear gas to break up the clashes. But in the afternoon, new violence erupted in a street between the church and the affiliated Saints Hospital. Some of the young protesters waved kitchen knives. . . .

Later, hundreds gathered at an Alexandria monastery for funerals of the victims, chanting "Mubarak, the Copts' blood is boiling,'' and "we will no longer be afraid, we will no longer submit'' as they waved crosses.
Today the church gathered to worship. This is how they responded:
Father Maqar, who led the service, did not give a sermon, preferring to express his grief with silence.
"I tell Christians to pray and pray to ease their agony," he later told reporters. 
It is easy for me to sit in my leather chair, munching a donut and sipping coffee in my warm church office and pontificate about what the suffering brothers in Egypt ought to do. (Does my hypocrisy have limits?) Yet, I still think it is important for believers to ask what a faithful response ought to be. It is not just an exercise in ethics, but a reminder of our identity as believers in a crucified Messiah to ask, "How do we respond to suffering?"

So, what would you do? How would you respond if someone bombed your church? Why?

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