The Martyrs of El Minya, St. Samuel the Confessor and a Plea to the Eastern Orthodox


Fr Kyrillos Ibrahim – 30/5/17

This might be considered a controversial post though I hope not….

It is well known that the main threat facing the Copts of Egypt is terrorism born out of Islamic fundamentalism. The recent attack in El Minya on the Coptic pilgrims visiting St. Samuel the Confessor’s monastery highlights this ongoing threat and perhaps confirms a new era of martyrdom for the Church of Egypt.

However, the fact that this happened on the road to St. Samuel’s monastery specifically calls attention to another point that has been weighing on my heart. St. Samuel the Confessor was persecuted and suffered under the captivity of the Berbers. But he was also beaten, tortured and had one of his eyes plucked out by an envoy of the Christian Byzantine Emperor and Chalcedonian patriarch. Why do I bring this up?

A few months ago, three Coptic youth wished to take the blessing of an Eastern Orthodox Monastery in Arizona (ironically by the name of St. Anthony the Great). From the time the three youth arrived (simply as visitors with no intention of attending services or asking for partaking of the Sacraments) they were essentially verbally assaulted and treated with disdain by three different monks. They were told that the persecution in Egypt was “divine wrath” against the Coptic heretics! Of course, they left that place confused and saddened. Where was the simple hospitality that should be afforded to any visitor regardless of his religion or denomination? I have a dozen other questions I would like to ask but that’s not my point in this… Oh, and this is not the first incident at that place with other Coptic visitors. And this attitude is not limited to that one place and I can easily share many more stories of similar incidents in other places.

My point is this… Orthodoxy has its own flavor of fundamentalism. True, we are not blowing each other up BUT what matter is it if I myself don’t kill but see the killing of others as God’s justice or “divine wrath” because they are (in my eyes) an affront to God? What really separates these monks from ISIS if in the end, they both think that the death of the Christians in Egypt is part of pleasing God?
I am not a radical ecumenist calling for unity at the expense of truth. For those who don’t want unity, fine no problem, we managed for 1500 years with God’s grace, power, and wonders. We aren’t begging anyone. But surely there is a better way to treat one another even as divided Christians.

Just as Islam needs reform from within, so does Orthodoxy. Lord have mercy!