Monday, April 10, 2017

Grant Lord, Your Protection to All Who Suffer Persecution

 Almighty ever-living God, who as an example of humility for the human race to follow caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross, graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering  and so merit a share in his Resurrection.                  Collect for Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion 

Serving yesterday at the Palm Sunday liturgies in my parish, I had the opportunity to listen to this prayer and meditate on it, in light of the bomb attacks on two Coptic Orthodox churches in Egypt where worshippers were celebrating, as we were, the liturgy of Palm Sunday.  Amid the carnage and destruction of yet another hateful attack by ISIS against them,  it seems astonishing that the survivors are truly heeding the Lord's "lesson of patient suffering".  But they continue to do so, refusing to retaliate, but submitting to the Cross and choosing "to bear all things" in Christ.

The persecution of the Christian minority in Egypt, (who number approximately 8 million souls and make up about 10% of  Egypt's population of 83 million) is nothing new.  In the summer of 2013, mobs angered by the removal from office of President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, burned many Coptic Orthodox churches throughout the country.  In December ISIS bombed the Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Cairo.  In the northern Sinai, at least 40 Copts have been murdered in 2017 alone and hundreds of Christians have been forced to abandon their homes and flee to Cairo for safety.

And in 2015 twenty Coptic migrant workers (and a non-Christian Chadian man who chose to die with them) were beheaded by ISIS on a beach in Libya.  They were quickly glorified as martyrs by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

As Holy Week begins, I am remembering in meditation and prayer the persecuted, martyr church of Egypt.  May the example of their steadfast and patient witness to our loving and merciful Savior, who "accepted unjust condemnation to save the guilty" (Preface for Palm Sunday) strengthen our resolve to reject hatred and violence and change the hearts of their persecutors.      

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