Charleston and Samalout: The Connection That Surprises the World

Yesterday, an intolerant, hate-filled extremist murdered nine Christians — most of them women — as they prayed in their church. Our prayers are with them and their families.

It happened in Charleston, South Carolina. But as a Copt, I had to think: “Sounds too familiar.”

From Alexandria to Libya, we, too, are targeted by terrorists for being different. Our loved ones, too — sometimes the youngest — come home in coffins.

But here’s what amazes me. The most important thing about what happened in Charleston — and what connects families there to families in places like Samalout who lost loved ones in Libya — is not the crime.

The most important thing, and what is amazing about our faith, is forgiveness.

The entire world sat up in shock when family members of the Copts killed in Libya said: We forgive.

“Who are these people?” they asked. “Are they crazy?”

No… Christians.

By forgiving the ISIS killers, the families of the Libya martyrs honored the belief in forgiveness that is central to Christ’s teachings. And as H.G. Bishop Angaelos made clear after the massacre:

“As Christians, we remain committed to our initial instinct following the murder of our 21 Coptic brothers in Libya, that it is not only for our own good, but indeed our duty to ourselves, the world, and even those who see themselves as our enemies, to forgive and pray for the perpetrators of this and similar crimes. We pray for these men and women, self-confessed religious people, that they may be reminded of the sacred and precious nature of every life created by God.”

When I heard the news from Charleston yesterday, I was dragged down by the same sadness and shock as everyone. But I was floored when I heard the son of one of the murdered women say this about the killer:

“We forgive him for what he’s done, and there’s nothing but love from our side of the family.”

I am grateful beyond words to that young man. He reminded me that we are truly One Body in Christ.

We are so blessed to know love, not terror, and forgiveness, not fear. To a lot of the world, this can be surprising. But this is what I feel connects us, as Christians, from Charleston to Samalout.

About Nermien Riad

Nermien Riad founded Coptic Orphans in 1988 after volunteering for an orphanage in Cairo. When she saw that most of the children had living widowed mothers who simply couldn't afford to feed them, she gathered family and friends to sponsor children in Egypt. Today Coptic Orphans works through a network of 400+ church-based volunteers in Egypt, who visit fatherless families in their homes and make sure they get everything they need to unlock their full potential. That way, they don't have to get married off as child brides, work as 10-year old family breadwinners, or go to live at an institutional orphanage.

2 thoughts on “Charleston and Samalout: The Connection That Surprises the World

  1. Death and hate are promoted to young minds by parents, social environment and media. Let’s be light and fully declare against all violent ideologies and media content, they do feed young brains with the wrong food and someone will suffer the consequence.

    1. Thank you, Ruth, for sharing your thoughts. We really do need to counter hate and death with love. Peace and grace to you and your loved ones.

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