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?”
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.