Willing To Die For Christ In Egypt

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Image: Egyptian Christians show their cross tattoos.
By Beth Ross | 14 March 2018

On May 26, 2017 a bus was attacked on its way to a monastery in Minya, Egypt. The men on board were given a choice: convert to Islam or die for Christ.

Ascension Day takes place 40 days after Easter Sunday. It’s the time Christians in Egypt celebrate Jesus ascending into heaven. Nadia and her family were on their way to visit the monastery of St Samuel.

Left Image: Sameh (pictured right) on Ascension Day. Right Image: Nadia.

“It was a family trip,” Nadia said. “Our relatives that immigrated to the States were visiting Egypt... We weren’t worried about our security at all.” 

Hany, Nadia’s son, went along. With them was Nadia’s daughter Zoraida, her son-in law, Sameh, and Nadia’s 3-year-old grandson. 

“I saw some men in military clothing, but I thought they were there to protect the monastery,” Nadia said. 

The opposite was true. The men shot the wheels of the bus and climbed on. 

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Image: On the road to Minya.

Nadia’s Family: The Choice

“My son-in-law [Sameh] was sitting in the front of the bus,” Nadia recalled. “They turned towards him first. They ordered him to convert to Islam. But my son-in-law showed the cross tattoo on his wrist and said: ‘No, I will not. I am a Christian.’ Then he was shot.”

The terrorists asked each man on the bus to convert to Islam or die. They stopped next to her son Hany. Nadia watched from the back of the bus. She saw Hany raise his wrist and heard his last words: “No, I am a Christian.” 

“Maybe you think I would rather have seen my son make a different choice,” Nadia said. “And of course, as a mother I am terribly sad and angry because I lost my son… But I am happy that I witnessed the faith I raised in him. I am thankful that he wouldn’t deny Christ even with his life in danger.” 

“He made the right choice,” she said. “And that has been a huge comfort to me.”

But it was far from over. The terrorists turned towards the women, shouted insults at them and took all their jewelry. And then they grabbed her 3 year-old grandson.  

“They said they would kill [my grandson] if the girls on the bus wouldn’t come with them,” Nadia said. 

But then a ute approached. The terrorists left and walked towards the ute to carry out their second attack. 

“I still thank God that he prevented the girls from being taken,” Nadia said. “The men would have abused them terribly.”

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Image: Pictures of those killed, on a building in the village of Beni Suef, where many lived.

Marco & Mina: Alive To Tell The Story

In the ute were Marco and Mina, who lived in a small village in the southern part of Egypt. They were 14 and 10 years of age. The boys had joined their father, Ayad, on a trip to St Stephens monastery. Their dad worked there and wanted to show his sons what he did. But Ayad never got the chance. 

“My dad was driving [the ute]. Some of his colleagues rode with us. Then we heard shouting,” Mina said.

On the road to the monastery, they could see the bus that had been attacked, and all the men who refused to convert to Islam had been shot. Before they could turn around, the terrorists climbed off the bus and had made their way towards the ute. Mina and his brother hid.

“We heard them force our father to get out first,” Mina said. “The man shouted he had to convert to Islam. My father said no. They shot him.” 

Ayad’s colleagues were all forced to step off the truck. One by one they were asked the same question: convert to Islam or die for Christ. As on the bus, everyone chose Jesus over their own life. 

When the terrorists found the boys, Mina remembers being so afraid. One man shot at them but missed. Another said: “No, let them live to tell the story.”

Marco and Mina were left amongst the dying.

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Image: Marco and Mina, with their mother and sister.

“We didn’t know what to do,” Marco said. “We wanted to get help, but didn’t have mobile reception. I never drove before, but I told Mina to get back in the [ute] so we could find a place to call Mum.”

Marco could barely reach the pedals, but he managed to drive to a place where they could make a call. They then drove back to their father who lay on road, he was still breathing. 

“He couldn’t talk anymore,” Marco said. “But he wagged his finger, signing us to go away. But we didn’t want to leave him.” 

They tried to lift him into the truck, but they weren’t strong enough. 

“Then I put my father on my chest.” Marco said. “Soon my clothes were soaked with his blood, but I didn’t care.”  

Soon after, Ayad died. 

The boys live with their older sister and mother. They often talk about what happened and both still have nightmares. 

“Mina is the one I worry about most,” his mother said. “He has become very fearful. He doesn’t dare to go out alone anymore. This wound he will carry for the rest of his life.” 

Happy To Die For Christ

At least 28 Coptic Christians died in the two Ascension Day attacks. The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State who have vowed to make Christians in Egypt their next target. 

Nadia survived the bus attack, despite being struck by a bullet in her arm. 

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Image: Nadia reading her bible.

“Without God’s comfort, I would have gone crazy,” she said, before referring us to her favourite verse. 

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matthew 10:28

“If I meet the attackers of my son and they kill me for my faith I’d be happy,” she said. “Then I would join my son in heaven. [But] I pray that they will be touched by God so they will change their ways.”

Continue to pray for Christians are they gather in the lead up to Easter. Pray for their protection and that fear will not prevent them from sharing the gospel and following Christ.

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