When Some Arabs View Christian Victims As Nothing But “Kuffar:” Thoughts With The Victims of The Egyptian Coptic Church Attacks

Yes, the majority of victims of wars in the Middle East are Muslims. That is not a matter of debate. But the people who have been dealt the worst hand in the ongoing conflicts in this God-forsaken region are minorities who have been systematically targeted in heinous ways, just because they happen to be different.

The latest is a disgusting attack on the Coptic Church in Egypt, on a day where they were celebrating. Palm Sunday was turned black, with two attacks, targeting two Churches hundreds of kilometers apart. The victim tallies are sky-rocketing and are already North of 30. Injured are north of 100, with numbers rising the more details emerge.

This is not the first time the Coptic Church is targeted, and it won’t be the last. The last time such an attack happened was less than 5 months ago, in December where 30 people died. The Copts of Egypt aren’t the only minority in these parts of the world to be systematically targeted as well. Between the Kurds, Muslims who don’t fit into the mold, and Christians of the some areas in the Levant, the stories keep unfolding, each more horrible than the one before it.

Today’s attack on the Churches in Tanta and Alexandria are horrible. Those were people with their children, having spent weeks buying new clothes, picking out the nicest candles, excited to be approaching the end of Lent, and full of humility at entering the week preceding Easter. Some of those people had their last celebration today.

The Copts in Egypt are not in a war-zone. They don’t live in a country ravaged by a dictator whose favorite pastime is using chemical weapons on his people. Their only fault is being a minority in a country they were historically integral to, as is the case with all the other minorities in the Middle Easts who have been forcibly turned into strangers in their own homes.

What can I say – or what can anyone say – to the mother who just lost her son? To the father who lost his daughter just as he was gushing over how adorable she looked right there, standing on that Church pew, as he tried to keep her quiet while the priest went on with his sermon? There’s nothing to say.

I am fortunate enough, as a Lebanese Christian, not to have to go through any of the hardships in 2017 that other minorities, which I would be considered to be elsewhere, in the region have to go through. I live in a country of minorities that are trying (their best?) to coexist together and have learned (or are learning), through all kinds of difficult ways, that one cannot exist without the other.

But that is not the case for governments of other countries in the Middle East. What can you expect from governments whose solution to the whole mess is to start a Twitter hashtag (in Egypt’s case, it’s #United_On_PalmSunday), but forget about the policies in which those same governments keep stomping on their own people to prevent them from assuming their natural place in society.

What can you expect from governments who have made sure that religious entities that help perpetuate the notion that anyone who is not Muslim in the Middle East is a disgrace, a kafer, whose blood is halal? It’s not the fault of Muslims, many of whom are as victims of their condition as those minorities. All this blood rests on the hands of kings, presidents, sheikhs and sometimes even priests who thrive under the perpetuation of the notion of kuffar, and the notion of victimhood.

What use is your sympathy when people get massacred this way when in all the days leading up to their killing, you’ve been teaching in books that considered them second class citizens, you’ve been advocating for laws that see them being slowly robbed of their own country, and you’ve been making sure that they’re to be considered as pests in their own home?

Just look at this sample of responses that news of the attacks in Egypt garnered:

There’s more when these came from. The sample is not comprehensive.

As long as some Arab Muslims look at Christians (and other minorities) in their own countries as abominations, as kuffar, then their countries will never amount to anything decent.

As long as some Muslim “scholars” and sheikhs keep perpetuating the hateful notion that Muslims are the only entities worth of life in their countries, as they shut away all attempts at modernity, some people of their religion will use their holy words to kill others they deem as lessers.

If you’re crying when I’m targeted but go about an hour later to consider me as less a person than you, then you are not even close to being part of a solution. We are not lessers. We are not second class citizens.

It says a lot about the coward pieces of shit who did this to kill tens of people on Palm Sunday. It shows that such cancerous entities are incompatible with any form of the world that we want.

Such abominations refuse diversity, refuse coexistence, refuse anything that doesn’t conform with their code of death. The only thing they deserve is to burn in the deepest pits of hell.

May the souls of the victims Rest In Peace. It’s about time we stand with the oppressed and claim them as people whose lives are worth celebrating when they’re abundant, not in the moment of their demise.

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The Case for Christian Easter Unity

What I'm celebrating

As I’m celebrating Easter Sunday today, Orthodox Christians are celebrating the day I had last week: Palm Sunday.

Following Palm Sunday, they’re going to have their own Holy Week, in which Jesus will go through what He went through this past week with Catholics, leading up to Him dying on the Cross yet again, before resurrecting.

That’s too much work for a deity in a couple of weeks, don’t you think? And quite redundant as well.

So I ask this. The fact that there are two Easters means that one may be right, the other may be wrong – or both may be wrong at that and Easter should be set at a totally different date altogether.

What Orthodox Christians are celebrating

I don’t want to go into who’s right and who’s wrong. That is besides the point. I don’t want Orthodox fanatics going all “Orthodox, Orthodox” on me, trying to prove they’ve got the correct Easter. And I don’t want Catholics to go all “holy Pope” in trying to prove theirs as well.

I also don’t want to hear about the various weather theories: it rained on our Good Friday, God must be on our side. It’s 2012 people.

There needs to be a credible approach towards setting a date for Easter that works for both sects, every year. I wouldn’t mind a twelve day vacation every time, as well.

If anything, being Christian is going beyond your pride, which I think is the only hurdle facing unifying Easter, and working towards the unity of the Church – at least when it comes to the crucification of Jesus.

Until then, Happy Easter to Catholics and have a great Palm Sunday, Orthodox people. Hopefully there will come a day where I can say Happy Easter to both every year, not on sporadic years where both Easters happen to be simultaneous.

He is risen.

 

Happy Palm Sunday

My very first Palm Sunday. Had a death in the family so my parents couldn't take me.

I remember when I was a little boy and my parents used to take me, along with my brothers, to go buy new clothes for Palm Sunday. I used to hate it. My parents used to love it. Any opportunity to have their kids compare to others, right?

My dad loved to dress my brothers and I in some funky stuff. I remember them taking us to church wearing unmatched socks once – one red and the other yellow along with sticky things that they glued on our ears. Needless to say, many people in my hometown were not particularly happy. But my dad has always been the “eccentric” one. You should hear the stories I’m told about him in his younger days.

And don’t get me started on the candle. Every single year, we buy a new candle to carry and every single year it turns out to be the most useless thing. You try to lit it, the wind blows it off immediately. You try to walk with it but it’s heavy. And more often than not, twenty minutes into the proceedings, it breaks in half.

But you know what, as my 22 year old self types this and misses out on the proceedings, I cannot help but feel notsalgic to the times when I really was excited about Palm Sunday rolling around. I’ve recently noticed as well that most of our photographed memories are taken on Palm Sunday. As you go through albums, you can see as your whole generation grew up year after year. Until you all stopped going bit by bit and a newer generation took over.

Easter in Lebanon is apparently among the best in the world. Palm Sunday is just the beginning.

Here’s to us becoming parents in the future and spoiling our kids on Palm Sunday. Have a blessed day everyone.

 

 

Remember, Remember The 26th Of March…

I’ve been breathing for 21 years and a few months. This totals to more than 7700 days of me being alive. Out of those 7700 days, the one that’s imprinted in my mind the most is a cold, grey and dark day in March, 12 years ago.

March 26th, 1999.

I remember it was a rainy day. One of those days that start off wrong for a nine year old because his favorite TV station was not showing his favorite TV show that night. They were showing an award show for ads, instead. So I was discussing how horrible that was with a friend as we were going back to class after a recess.

So I came back home on a Friday and I postpone doing my homework because, well, it is Friday. An hour later, around 6 pm, my mom comes into the house in a near state of hysteria. She was crying while shouting: “They’re lying to me…. Something happened to my brother, they’re lying to me”

I looked at my mom with a sense of disbelief. What was going on?

My grandma gets my mom to sit down and she hands her a glass of water. My mom was still shaking. Then, my dad comes inside. He sits next to my mom and hugs her.

She asks “Is Hanna dead?”

Hanna and my uncle had gone hunting.

My dad nods and says “but I’m not sure about Elias (my uncle)”.

My mom starts crying even more. It got to a point that a nine year old like me can’t handle so I went to my room and cried. When I came out, my mother had left with my dad. They had gone to tell my uncle’s wife about what happened.

So I go outside, still crying. My aunt (his sister) comes to our place and she sees us all distressed. She shouts from the top of the stairs: “Elie, what’s going on?”

I couldn’t answer her. I had no idea what was going on in the first place, let alone what to say to her. So my aunt left immediately.

That was the last I saw of my mom, aunt and dad for the next two days.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept hearing gunfire and I knew it had something to do with my uncle. I remember looking out from my room’s window and seeing people on our balcony. I asked them: “what’s going on? Is my uncle okay?”

They replied “Yes, Elie, don’t worry. Go back to sleep”.

Naturally, nothing was okay. The following day, the whole village was dead quiet. My cousins were brought over and we all had no idea what was going on. We were told my uncle had died but not the reason. So my cousin Perla, his daughter, started drawing on a board how her dad was now in heaven.

That night, there was a full blown report on the news about the events in my town. Toni Rouhana, a fifty year old man, had opened fire on my uncle and another man when they were hunting outside his property. The army was held in a crossfire with him all night. They had received orders from the president Emile Lahoud to keep him alive at all costs. They fired grenades at him, he fired grenades back. They fired smoke bombs, he was well prepared against them. He was trained in the civil war with Marada (Sleiman Frangieh’s party). Meanwhile, while the army fought him to attempt to capture him alive, my uncle bled to death because the man did not allow anyone to pick his body up, even the Red Cross. Later on that night, when the army realized it’s near impossible to capture a man so well-prepared alive, they blew open his house with an RPG missile and shot him down. They discovered a human skull inside his house and a book about devil worshiping. They also discovered the food my uncle had given him earlier that day, because he did not have enough money to buy it.

That Sunday was Palm Sunday. I woke up and saw my mother looking at the coffee she was supposed to drink. I went over and hugged her. She started crying and asked if I knew what happened. I nodded. She said my uncle was turned into a pincushion. She said he had pleaded for his life when the man opened fire and killed his hunting buddy. And I kept on hugging her.

Then they dressed us up in our Palm Sunday clothes and took us to my grandma’s house. My aunt was sitting in a corner alone, rocking her head back and forth. My uncle’s wife was sitting next to my grandma crying for her kids. My grandma was crying, telling everyone how “Elias from under the dirt wants them to go to church for Palm Sunday”.

So we were taken to church. Mass had already started. We opened the door and entered. The church fell quiet.

My grandma had worn black for twelve years till 1999. She started to move towards brighter shades of color early in January and April. I have not seen my grandma not wearing black since that day in March, 1999.