Bishop Mouneer in Iran

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Bishop Mouneer wrote :

I am now in a pastoral visit to our churches in Iran. Yesterday was the first service in St Paul Church in Tehran. The people in this church reminded me with the ” Faithful Remnants ” who waiting for the Lord. I rejoiced and prayed so that the Lord may bless them and send servants to  encourage them.

+Mouneer

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SERIOUS PRAYER REQUEST

This morning I woke up to the news that over 160 people had been slaughtered in the area of Gambella, Ethiopia within our Diocese.  Many children were abducted, and cattle and food stolen.  This news came from Rev Dr Johann W H van der Bijl, Dean of our St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College, Gambella, Ethiopia.  The fear is that this conflict may escalate and spread.

Please pray for safety and wisdom for Bishop Grant and Rev Johann and all staff in the Anglican center and the churches of that area. Pray also for the people of this very inflamed region.

You can read more about these events in the article at this link.

Bishop Mouneer

Statement regarding the Good Friday offering

It has come to our attention that the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church (USA) has recently issued a Lenten appeal asking the churches of TEC to remember the Good Friday offering for Jerusalem and the Middle East. In this appeal he said “this tradition [The Good Friday Offering] is decades old and is an important statement of our solidarity with the members of the four dioceses of the Province of Jerusalem and Middle East.”

I would like to clarify the fact that the Diocese of Egypt with North of Africa and the Horn of Africa, one of the four dioceses of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East does not receive funds or grants from the Good Friday offering of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the USA. The decision not to receive these funds came after the 2003 decision by TEC to consecrate as bishop a divorced man living in a homosexual relationship. The decision not to receive money from TEC is one expression of the reality that the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa was (and still is) in an impaired relationship with The Episcopal Church.

One of our clergy in Ethiopia states our situation in graphic terms: “We rather starve and not receive money from churches whose actions contradict the scriptures.”

 

+Mouneer                                                                                           +Grant

 

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis                          The Rt Rev. Dr Grant LeMarquand

Archbishop of Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt              Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa

with North Africa and the Horn of Africa                                  Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Egypt

Primate of the Episcopal / Anglican                                            with North Africa and the Horn of Africa

Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East

A Personal Reflection on the 2016 Primates’ Meeting

The Most Reverend Dr. Mouneer Anis

I must confess that as the time neared for the Primates’ Meeting, I became worried and anxious. The reason for this is that I am convinced that the Anglican Communion is God’s gift and value very much the unity among provinces. And yet I was torn because the unity I value should not be at the expense of the truth. After a lot of prayer, and because of the prayer of many of our friends, I found an outstanding Peace. The Lord spoke to me and reminded me that He is the head of the Church, not me. He has promised that even the gates of Hades will not overcome His Church. I went to Canterbury with this Peace filling my heart, not knowing what was going to happen, but trusting the true head of the Church to enable us to continue to be faithful to Him.

As I reflect now on the Meeting, I have come to the following points.

  1. Why this meeting was different from other Meetings
  2. Division versus Walking Together
  3. The Turning Point
  4. Various Reactions and My Appeal
  5. A New Atmosphere and Spirit
  6. A Journey to Build Trust in the Instruments Begins
  7. A Word of Thanks

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I. Why This Meeting Was Different from other Meetings

This Primates’ Meeting was very different from the previous ones in the following ways.

  1. The Archbishop of Canterbury consulted widely with the Primates in regard to the agenda. In the Meeting, the Primates voted for the most important agenda items. This gave the Primates a sense of ownership over the Meeting.
  2. When the Primates chose the first item for discussion, “the response of the Primates’ Meeting to the latest action of the Episcopal Church (TEC) General Convention”, it became clear that this time the burning issues were not going to be swept under the carpet.
  3. The invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is another recognition of the facts on the ground. ACNA is an Anglican Church that holds the Anglican teachings which are recognised by a large number of Provinces from the Global South. On this basis, the Archbishop did not want to exclude anybody.

I can safely say this Meeting was different because it addressed the real issues.

 

II. Division Versus Walking Together

The Primates have seen that the “change in their [TEC’s] Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage”. The standard teaching of the Anglican Communion on human sexuality and marriage is found in Lambeth 1.10 in its entirety. This was affirmed by two Lambeth Conferences, several Primates’ Meetings, the Windsor Report, and the Windsor Continuation Group.

Some of the Primates came with the desire to walk apart; those who support same-sex marriage in one direction and the others who do not in another. On the other hand, there were those who believed that the issue of same-sex marriage is not a core doctrinal issue and hence is not an essential of faith. These are the two ends of the spectrum.

In the middle, however, there are Primates who are aware that within TEC and Canada, there are people who hold the standard and acceptable teaching of the Anglican Communion in regard to the issue of human sexuality. Any kind of complete exclusion will affect these people. These Primates in the middle believe in diversity, but not unlimited diversity: diversity on the non-essentials and unity on the essentials of faith like the authority of the scripture.

The Primates voted on what consequences there should be for TEC in response to their action; six Primates voted for no consequences and a simple rebuke, but the overwhelming majority, thirty Primates, voted for some form of consequence of varying severity. This showed that while there was a wide range of opinions about what form the response should take, there was a fundamental consensus that there should be some real consequence.

 

III. The Turning Point

The turning point of the discussions came when Archbishop Winston Halapua of Polynesia asked the question, “how can we bless each other even if we walk in different directions?” In response to this question, I asked the presiding bishop of TEC and the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada to sit together with me for lunch. The Archbishop of York joined as well as the Archbishop of Uganda.

We had a frank and gracious discussion about how each of us felt and how the issue at hand had affected our respective provinces. We then moved on to consider the way ahead. I shared a thought I had had prior to the Primates Meeting of 2011. This idea was to create a “distance and continuous dialogue”. In other words this would create a space for contemplation without tension as a first step towards restoring our Communion. It does not involve excommunication of TEC, but limits their full participation in the Anglican Councils for a period or space.

When we shared this with the rest of the Primates, they wanted to know the nature of this distance. As a result, the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed a balanced working group to work out a proposal, which you can now see in the Communiqué.

 

 IV. Various Reactions and My Appeal

Two different kinds of reactions arose after the release of the Communiqué. Some reacted with outrage and others with triumph. Sadly I found little grace in these reactions. I recalled the compassionate words of Jesus in Luke 13:34, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that”. I feel that we need to pray so that we may have such Christ-like compassion.

I appeal to everyone to spend this coming three years in a more constructive contemplation on how to restore our impaired Communion. How can we move ahead and advance the mission of our Lord? What kind of suitable structure can we have to guarantee that we will not be distracted away from the purpose God has put before us? Let us not think in terms of triumph and defeat, instead we have to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith.

I am aware of those who challenge the authority of the Primates to make decisions. I would say that the decisions of the Primates’ Meeting as they appeared in the Communiqué, are not new, they are “consistent with previous statements” from the different Instruments of Communion. I will be responding to this issue in more detail in the near future.

 

 V. A New Atmosphere and Spirit

Once we decided on the consequences for the actions of TEC, we started to discuss other issues. The spirit in the room had changed 180 degrees. It was amazing and tremendously encouraging to hear the passionate discussion about mission and evangelism, the challenge of refugees, religiously motivated violence, and environmental issues. It was a real joy for me to witness the different Primates sharing on how the Lord is at work in their provinces and how their churches are growing. I felt that this is the Anglican Communion I love.

 

VI. A Journey to Build Trust in the Instruments Begins

I feel now a journey has just begun in order to restore the trust in the Instruments of Communion. This trust was lost because of the reluctance to follow through on the recommendations of previous Lambeth Conferences and Primates’ Meetings. We have now a real opportunity to follow through the recommendations of this Primates’ Meeting. In addition to this, we have a good space to discuss the best possible shape of our Communion that would guarantee the expansion of the Kingdom of God.

I should mention that the last foot-washing service was very humbling and moving. At that time, I realised I should be more aware of my weaknesses as we address weakness in others.

 

VII. A Word of Thanks

I would like to thank Archbishop Justin Welby for his leadership of this historic meeting. I also would like to thank Archbishop John Sentamu whose contributions helped a lot in reaching a conclusion. I am also grateful for all my colleagues who persevered in order to reach what we reached and to move ahead with our Communion. I also must not forget the supporting staff of the Archbishop of Canterbury who worked around the clock to serve and help us.

 

20 January 2016

+Mouneer Egypt

Christmas Eve Sermon

The Birth of Christ, a Light that Defeated Darkness

Archbishop Mouneer Anis

 

More than 700 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah prophesied about the birth, saying, Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign. The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). And then shortly after Isaiah prophesied, saying: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death, light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2). And so we find Isaiah describing the birth of Christ as a light that conquers the darkness.

But what did Isaiah mean by this darkness? What did he mean by the land of the shadow of death?

In response to these two questions, Isaiah described the consequences of the harsh circumstances in which the people of Israel lived at that time. The Israelites had suffered complete defeat by the Assyrians. Their land was now occupied and their cities destroyed. Their people had been imprisoned and many of the captivates brought to Babylon. They were crushed and angry enough to insult their king, even their God. Instead of repenting and turning to God, they rebelled and did evil in God’s eyes. They went so far as to approach magicians and mediums. God warned Isaiah of this black time: They will pass through the land, dejected and hungry, and when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will curse their king and God. They will turn toward heaven and look to the earth, but they will see only distress and darkness…and the anguish and doom of banishment. (Isaiah 8:21,22)

So we see that the darkness which Isaiah speaks of is in fact a darkness of sin. It is a spiritual darkness and is the result of the sins of the people of Israel who rebelled, going astray from the law and the way of the Lord. The people were indeed walking in deep darkness. They had no hope. Life had no purpose. For this reason, the prophet described them as a people living in a land of the shadow of death.

However, Isaiah prophesied of hope. In the midst of this spiritual darkness there would be a light that dawns; a light that would rise up to save the people from their sins and rule over them. This light would bring back hope and a real peace to all who accept the light into their hearts. Isaiah describes the birth of Christ and his reign in these memorable words: A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be vast authority and endless peace for David’s throne and for his kingdom, establishing and sustaining it with justice and righteousness now and forever. The zeal of the Lord of heavenly forces will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7) Isaiah prophesies here of the characteristics of this new king; of his birth and eternal reign. The one who would finally defeat the darkness that has come into this world.

The prophesy of Isaiah was fulfilled. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem and out in the nearby fields the glory of God appeared to the shepherds as they sat, guarding their flocks in the darkness of another night. The angel of the Lord announced to them, Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11) And the angel sang, Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors! (Luke 2:14)

John wrote a careful description of Christ: He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light. The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world. The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world did not recognize the light. The light came to his own people, and his own people did not welcome him. (John 1:6-11)

And earlier in that chapter; in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5) Here we see John’s affirmation of the prophecy of Isaiah about the Messiah, describing him as the source of life that illuminates the hearts of the people and conquers the darkness of sin that leads to spiritual death.

Notice with me, here, that Jesus’ own people did not accept him. The people of Israel themselves, living in darkness and the shadow of death, did not accept the true light because of their hardheartedness.

Jesus himself also declared his identity, affirming once again the prophecy of Isaiah: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

My beloved people, the world in which we live is overshadowed by darkness. Every day we hear news of terror attacks, killing, crimes, and persecution. On television we watch as refugees trying to escape for their lives are swallowed by the waves of the sea. We read about millions of children who die every year of starvation. This is a darkness brought about by sin and the hardheartedness of human beings.

But the birth of Christ and his coming to Earth gives us hope and leads us out of this valley of the shadow of death. He saves us from our sins and brings light to our hearts.   He gives us life eternal and a peace that the world cannot give. All that we need to do is accept this light and accept Jesus in our hearts as our savior and king over our lives. Let us walk in this light so that we may be children of the light. Jesus said to them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” (John 12:35-36) Jesus encourages us this Christmas to walk in the light which means that we must live it. This will make each of us lights that reflect the ultimate light of Christ and his love to the society in which we live. Jesus commands us to be light to the world: In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

Mother Teresa once said, “It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.” As we celebrate Christmas, let us then reflect the light and the love of Jesus to all of those around us.

 

Note: Texts are pulled from several English translations, including the Common English Bible, New International Version, New King James Version, and New Revised Standard Version.

Opening of church and school in Gambela, Ethiopia

Gambela is a region of Ethiopia that is close to the border of Sudan. We have about 84 churches in this region. I recently visited Gambela and on this visit I came to dedicate the new church, St. Frumentius’ Church and also to open the new school of theology, St. Frumentius’ School of Theology. I will admit that it was a bit strange that I dedicated the church while they were still building it, but the School of Theology had already been completed for some time. It was a very joyful time and several of the different tribes who live in this region, the Nuer, the Anuak, and the Opo tribes came together for this great event. We pray that this church will be a church for all people from all tribes and that it will bring unity among the people who, to a great extent, still think along tribal lines.

I rejoiced at the opening of St. Frumentius’ Theological School. The church in Africa is growing rapidly, but so is the need for a theological depth which I believe this school will play an important part in. I anticipate that it will be critical in the formation of students who will become church leaders in this region. I was very encouraged first by the desire of the students to learn and then by the commitment of the faculty and the dean, Rev Dr. Johann van der Bijl.

In terms of the church, I must say I was very encouraged by what I have seen and I am very grateful for bishop Grant and his wife Wendy, and all his staff. I should also add that it was wonderful to attend the first session of the local assembly of the churches in Ethiopia. I continue to see the membership grow and grow. During the assembly, bishop Grant and myself were able to ordain two new deacons and bishop Grant confirmed 25 new people to the Church.

+Mouneer

Worshipers pack the seats in one of the new buildings.

Worshipers pack the seats in one of the new buildings.

Statement on the Paris Terror Attacks

Once again, the world has been shocked by acts of unspeakable violence and brutality. Once again, the world mourns with the families and friends of victims of tragedy. Once again, the world searches for meaning and hope in the terrible wreckage left in the wake of such dehumanizing hatred, senseless bloodshed, and unparalleled loss.

In this time of grief, it is all too easy to see the path the world has laid out for us. It is the path of retributive justice, of reciprocate hatred, of fear and anger. This is the way the world moves; the way governments, militaries, and judicial systems function. But it is at this critical time that we must ask ourselves what our role must be in the aftermath of such tragedy.

The best we can possibly do is to look to the most enduring response to violence and death that there is. The death by crucifixion of Jesus Christ, some two thousand years ago. Unjust powers, motivated by anger and fear, murdered the very incarnation of God. What became of this greatest travesty? God forged it into the greatest triumph over evil that Creation has yet seen. And what of the one who became the victim in our place? “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

In the very darkest hour, Jesus called upon God for forgiveness. We see this message in his teachings, and then echoed in his living and his dying. Profound forgiveness. Profound mercy. Profound grace.

In 2006, an armed man entered a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He shot ten girls between 6 and 13 years old, five of whom died, and then committed suicide. The response of the Amish community was swift. Within hours of the shooting, an Amish neighbor had visited the family of the gunman and offered comfort and forgiveness. Standing by the body of his murdered granddaughter, a grandfather told several young boys “We must not think evil of this man”. Some 30 of the Amish community attended the funeral of the assailant, and one of the few outsiders permitted to the funeral of one of the Amish girls was the man’s widow.

I sometimes wonder at the capacity of humankind for such forgiveness, but then I realise that I am merely wondering at God’s grace. I look back to the earliest words of the Bible and find that in Genesis 1:27 we were created in the image of God and that in verse 31 God saw everything that had been made and “it was supremely good”.

And, even though much has happened since God set those mighty intentions into play, I hold God’s words close from 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” And in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

Perhaps it is in the darkest hours that the light shines out the brightest, that the vision of the kingdom is clearest, no matter how distant. The path to that kingdom is never so clearly laid, but the vision is there. It is a vision of all nations streaming forward, all division cast aside, all conflict passed, Jew and Gentile together.

So today I mourn for all the victims of this unthinkable violence. I mourn for their family. And their family is this world. Every last person is their neighbor. Every last person is a victim of this tragedy—violence is indeed an evil which harms both victim and perpetrator. I pray for the citizens of Paris, for the country of France, for Europe, for every country the world over, as they bow their heads from the weight of death and useless violence as it continues to visit itself upon brother after brother, sister after sister. I pray for healing, for forgiveness, and for hope in the hearts of the affected families. Wrong has been done, and there is not one person of this world who is not a victim of it.

And I pray that through it all, the goodness of God will continue to shine through. The goodness that was there at the moment of creation, that was created anew in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and that continues to be created as the kingdom of heaven struggles forth in the darkest of times and places.

I pray for forgiveness. I pray for grace. I pray for peace.

 

 

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Archbishop of Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt
with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
Primate of the Episcopal / Anglican
Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East

Egypt deserves support not punishment

During the last two years, Egypt has been fighting terrorism and has succeeded to a great extent in this. Even so, fighting continues against terrorist groups in the north of Sinai. One can imagine how such conflicts drain the financial resources of the country and result in the sad loss of civilian, police and military lives. We Egyptians thank God because we are not suffering the current destruction that is happening in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. If we had not risen up again on the 30th of June 2013, we would be in similar circumstances to these countries.

Egypt is still struggling to improve its economy after the two revolutions of January 2011 and June 2013. The subsequent drop in tourism has hit the Egyptian economy badly.

In this context, the recent news of the crash of a Russian aircraft has come as a shock to all of us. We are deeply saddened for those who have lost their lives and for their families.

But we were further shocked to learn that the British government, instead of supporting Egypt in its fight against terrorism, has decided to withdraw their support from Egypt. I thought that the British government would cooperate more in order to improve airport security, knowing that fighting terrorism is very difficult for governments all over the world.

No country evacuated its tourists from Britain after the 7th of July terrorist attack at London Underground. On the contrary, the international community stood by Britain then.

It is sad to see millions of Egyptian youth losing their jobs in tourism after this decision (which has since lead to a similar decision from Russia). In his supporting letter to me, Archbishop Justin Welby said that Egypt is “unjustly suffering”.  My prayer is to see the international community working together in fighting terrorism.  Ultimately, this will help in reducing the numbers of refugees from the current crises.

+ Mouneer

The Visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Egypt

After the beheading of 21 Christians in Libya, Archbishop Justin Welby contacted me and expressed his desire to come and give condolences to Pope Tawadros II and the Christian community in Egypt. This incident shook the conscience of the whole world, awakening the church worldwide to the fact that Coptic Christians are ready to die for the sake of their faith in Christ.

Archbishop Welby arrived in the early hours of April 19 and left at the early hours of the next day. In addition to the condolence visit to the Pope, meetings were organized between the Archbishop and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as well as with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyib.

At the meeting with the President, Archbishop Welby offered his condolences for the victims of terrorist attacks in Egypt, especially those by ISIS in Libya against Coptic Christians. He thanked the President for his care and support for the Christian minority. At this point, the President emphasized that Egyptian Christians are not a minority but members of one Egyptian family. “They have full rights as Egyptian citizens,” the President said.

The Archbishop also commended the President for his speech at the beginning of the year in which he challenged religious leaders to re-new the religious rhetoric.

President Sisi replied saying that terrorism and extremism are the products of ignorance, poverty, and isolation from the modern world, in addition to a poor religious rhetoric. He shared his hopes that Western universities would offer scholarships to Egyptian students, which would not only advance their technical skills and knowledge, but also expose these students to different cultures, opening new generations to the diversity of the world.

During this meeting, I was able to share with President Sisi our efforts to build bridges between different faith communities. One of such projects was “Planting a Tree of Hope,” which helped school-age children from different religious backgrounds to learn to accept differences. Another is the ongoing “Imam-Priest Exchange,” a project that builds relationships between religious leaders. The President expressed his appreciation, and was also thankful to receive a copy of A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue and other books published by the Anglican Church in Egypt. The President also agreed to allow us to use a quote from his Christmas visit to the Coptic Cathedral: “the solution to our problems is to seriously love one another.” The meeting lasted for 70 minutes and was very warm and encouraging.

At the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Archbishop Welby handed Pope Tawadros II twenty-one letters of condolence written by members of the Church of England. The Pope shared about the strong faith exhibited by parents of the martyrs in Libya, who are proud of their sons for not denying Christ, welcoming instead their death for his sake. I also shared with the Pope the song, “Oh Lord Jesus (Ya RabYessua), written by a Scottish pastor inspired by these events. The Pope was greatly encouraged and appreciated the visit.

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The meeting with the Grand Imam was also very successful. Archbishop Welby assured the Grand Imam of his prayers for his efforts to renew religious rhetoric . The Grand Imam said that Christianity is a religion of love and Islam is a religion of mercy, and that in these crucial times we need the teaching of both. He also praised the warm relationship and fruitful cooperation between the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt and Al Azhar Al-Sharif.

Hope and anticipation were clear in each of these visits. We were particularly impressed by the President, who has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve for Egypt.

The visit concluded with a packed service at All Saints’ Cathedral, attended by members of Cairo’s Sudanese, Egyptian, and expatriate Anglican congregations. In his sermon, Archbishop Welby expressed his gratitude for the faithful witness of Middle Eastern Christians, even in the face of great adversity, encouraging listeners to continue to demonstrate the love of Christ to the world.

After the service a reception dinner was organized with former Grand Mufti Dr. Ali Gomaa and representatives of the Coptic Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, and other Middle Eastern churches, the Archbishop returned to the airport. On the way back from dinner the Archbishop said “I am amazed by the ability of the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt to bring many people from different backgrounds together.”

Archbishop Justin Welby’s visit was a great encouragement and demonstration of the unity of the global church in the face of adversity. For its success we give thanks to God.

+Mouneer

 

January & February Diocese Newsletter

They can break my body
They can break my pride
They can cut my head off
And post it up online
But when the morning breaks
It’s Jesus I will see
O my Lord Jesus
In you alone I’m free
Dear Friends,

I was moved by the words above, written by Rev. John Young, a Scottish pastor. He wrote them in a song inspired by the last words of one of the Egyptian Christians beheaded by ISIS in Libya last month. Before one of the young men was killed, he said, ya Rabbi Yesua, “oh, my Lord Jesus.”

It is difficult to imagine such brutal persecution facing Christians in the twenty-first century. However, it is not surprising. Before going to the cross, Christ warned his disciples in John 16: “they will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” This is exactly what happened in Libya.

It is both moving and encouraging to us, Egyptians and Christians, to know that these young men were ready to give their lives rather than denounce their saviour, Jesus Christ. These men, and those who have been killed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, have demonstrated great faith. Their testimony and the testimonies of their families have been powerful. The families of the Coptic Christians killed in Libya have consistently spoken about love and forgiveness for those who killed their sons.

In response to the events in Libya, the Egyptian government has decided to build a new church in Minya, the hometown of the martyrs killed in Libya, and dedicate it to their memory.

We lift up their families and communities and the whole of the church in the Middle East in prayer, and remember their model of faithfulness to Christ, captured in the words of Rev. Young. I would like to close with the final verse of “Ya Rabbi Yesua:”

They’re asking me to say
My faith is just a lie
They tell me ‘turn away
And I won’t have to die’
But how can I abandon
The one who wouldn’t abandon me
O my Lord Jesus
In you alone I’m free
May the Lord bless you.
+Mouneer
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