Alfred (above right) wrote an email on December 12th of this year (2016) and briefly shared news with me and others of another attack on Coptic Christians, this time 15 minutes from their home in Cairo, Egypt. They are reminded weekly and sometimes daily in their city of bombings, murder, harassment, and prejudice against their faith. This time it has gotten the world’s attention.
The bombing was two blocks away from the school where Alfred’s two children attend. He reported that over 75 families had losses and have many with serious injuries and are very vulnerable to death. Alfred’s young two children lost five of their friends in this atrocity. The Habashys’ immediate concern is for the security of their family, fellow believers and the nation. The Christmas holiday is one of the last things on their minds. Alfred finished his concise report by asking us to pray for them and for the situation in Egypt. This is certainly a reason to grieve with them and yet pray for them and Egypt.
I’m writing because the Habashys, while not only siblings in the Lord, provide a perspective that all of us need: the incredible glory of God’s kingdom is often at work in the midst of grief and tragedy. Even though the Habashys are physically untouched by this attack (they’ve been directly targeted in the past), they live moment to moment in a fragile Middle East. Yet, the Lord blesses their efforts to communicate the Gospel!
Alfred and Francis (Alfred’s father, above left) are Christian ministers, both very active in translating biblical studies into Arabic while leading congregations and believers to mature in the knowledge of Christ. Alfred writes and records studies for radio which broadcasts into the Arab world. A majority of the cost is paid for by the Robertsons of Louisiana’s Duck Dynasty. In October of this year he traveled to Texas to record more Arabic lessons for the refugees in Europe. In late September Francis and Alfred were able to distribute over 12,000 DVDs about Jesus from their church building and gave over 600 Bibles to Muslims.
The Habashys are well aware that Egypt isn’t the center of the world, but it is a world that’s seeing receptivity to the God of the Bible. People are reading that Egypt and all of the world is the Lord’s! The Habashys are also well aware that they’ve been called to live in the tension that surrounds them. To my knowledge, they have no plans for escaping the dangers of the city. They naturally see their mission as one that seeks to heal, comfort, and stabilize their society and others as agents of King Jesus. Isn’t this the mission of the Lord for all? Wasn’t Jesus’ mission about bringing real hope to the hopeless? Didn’t Jesus choose the merciful, the contrite, the peacemakers…the lowly of society to further His kingdom agenda? Aren’t we called to view the world through Jesus’ eyes?
We often call Jesus the “Man of Sorrows” because He was well acquainted with the brutality and oppression overwhelming the world, especially in His era. Jesus likened himself in Isaiah’s description of a friend to the world, yet a bullied friend (Isaiah 53:3). “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem….He took upon Himself ‘the iniquities of us all'” (Isaiah 53:6). To me, Jesus isn’t hiding His face from the Habashys or the victims of these evil acts in Cairo. To me, Jesus is very familiar with such pain. He cringes more intensely with the sight of their despair. His heart also breaks and in the midst of grief, He seeks the security of the helpless, seeks to comfort the depressed, seeks to heal wounds, create faith in Himself and bring real hope to the hopeless. Jesus isn’t calling believers away from pain, shock, and grief. That’s where we’ll find him, in the middle of it all acting as Redeemer, Savior, Shepherd, Priest, and King! When we can imagine the pain of Habashys and the tragedies befalling the faceless victims of those in Cairo, we can imagine Jesus close beside them. We can also imagine Jesus bringing God’s kingdom light to provide heavenly perspective and preace.
The Habashys have been blessings to an Arab world despite having dealt with very real afflictions to their own family in the past. I recall meeting them in Greece on a couple of occasions, once in the fall of 2003 and another in the spring of 2008. In the above picture, Alfred and Francis are in Athens, Greece, in 2008. During one of our meetings we sat at dinner and Francis told incredible stories of his own tribulations as a minister of the Gospel in Cairo. Distinctly, I remember a story of the small carry-on bag where he kept extra clothing and toiletries, and left the bag in his church office. Why? On more than one occasion secretive policing measures were taken to basically kidnap and detain him, pressuring him to be forthcoming with efforts to convert Egyptians to the Lord. He said one time he’d been gone for a month and his family had no way of knowing where he was of if he’d return. The Lord delivered him from each of these trials, and Francis as well as Alfred and others continue to influence Cairo and elsewhere on behalf of the Lord’s kingdom.
Jesus experienced similar things as this during His ministry. He knew of plots to dispose him. If Jesus was traveling in Judea and merely speaking about forgiveness of sins many would have considered him harmless, and Pharisaic scheming to get rid of Jesus would’ve been unnecessary. Jesus would’ve been marginalized at best. Yet, if Jesus spread the rumors that God’s long awaited Messianic kingdom was being launched through Him, its not difficult to imagine how the power brokers of the era perceived him as a direct threat. They weren’t open to yielding power to some popular Galilean, especially one who would have his opponents “removed from office.”
So, what might we be able to do? Alfred urged us to “Pray for us and for Egypt!” We shouldn’t consider prayer as a weak option. Prayer for the effective influence of God’s kingdom on earth is exactly what Jesus urged the disciples to do and also urges us. We want the Lord to fill the earth with real hope and make His reign the reality it should be. Enemies of the Christ need to be transformed by God’s power. Enemies of the Christ need to be born again. Jesus assures us through His resurrection He will overcome all enemies, death being the last (1 Corinthians 15:26). So, first off, let’s pray!
Few of us can travel to Cairo to provide immediate relief. However, all of us can aid the Habashys by:
1. sending letters with sympathetic words, prayers, and encouragement. I have Francis and Alfred’s email address and physical address.
2. sending funds for the translation of biblical materials and the Habashys themselves. They’ve recently lost nearly $1000 in monthly support. I have the sponsoring church information and can arrange connections with them.
You can contact me at TheAzureBlue.firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how you can be a blessing to the Habashys. Together with the Lord’s help, we can be there in spirit with them. We can strengthen them by letting them know many in the world have been affected by their story and how believers are yearning for God to glorify Jesus in Egypt and make that nation a blessing to the world!