By Amy Penn
05/27/2017 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) visited three martyrs’ families from last month’s Palm Sunday church bombings in Egypt. We listened as the families remembered that day including the desperation they felt as they raced to their loved ones’ churches and the sadness they experienced when they found the bodies in a morgue. These families deserved to be bitter, to grieve, and hate. Their responses, however, humbled and challenged us.
Peter, Sami’s son, shared about his father’s legacy and the struggle to live without him. “My father was everything for me. He was my father, my brother, and my close friend. I love him so much. Life has become very difficult for me.” Sami’s wife, Instar, asked for prayer that God would strengthen her and her family to “endure [her] husband’s parting.”
Other family members also expressed their grief. Phebi confessed, “Raouf was a good man…it was very hard for me when I look at the choir of deacons and not see my husband…I lost his voice, his appearance.” But in the midst of their grief, they also shared the “messages” they believe God and their loved ones sent them.
Sami’s sister, Samia, expressed these messages, explaining that we should “be prepared” and “forgive.” To the “people who exploded the church, I want to tell them I ask God to forgive them. They did what they thought would get them to heaven, but they are mistaken.” Rather than hating those who targeted the churches and applauded the deaths of so many Christians, these families asked God for their forgiveness. They chose to see the suicide bombers as misguided people, seeking heaven but only succeeding in sending others home.
To everyone else, Samia warns, “We should be ready all the time, because death is a moment, none of us knows when his hour comes.” While men like Girgis, Sami, and Rauof did not know they would enter Heaven on Palm Sunday, their families are confident that the godly lives they led prepared them for death.
The victims may be gone, but their legacy still lives. Mariam looked in the distance as she spoke to her husband, “Your love exists inside my heart and your life is unlimited…Your love filled the hearts of people and your martyrdom for Christ gives us pride and glory.”
To many of the families, the victims’ deaths were a mark of God’s favor. They were chosen to be martyrs and are now in heaven. Demiana, Girgis’ daughter, comforted her mother, “Why are you sad, Mama? Why are you crying? Papa is happy in Heaven.” Despite their sadness and loss, all of these families find similar pride and joy that their loved ones are in heaven.
Such incredible trust in God has enabled the family members to find joy, forgiveness, and comfort in the midst of grief. As we listened to these stories, we realized that these messages of forgiveness and trust are not just for the victims’ families, but for all of us. How can we do less?