November 2011 letter
The Church and our brothers in Egypt are passing through a hard time these days, and no matter how distant we are from our brothers and sisters or the mother church, we feel their pains and interact with them in a living unity of the spiritual body of Christ.
But it is important while following their news to recognize these basic and important facts:
1) That the hardship and persecution that the Church is facing, although seems to be directed by individuals or authorities against her, is actually the war of Satan; the enemy of all good, a war that is repeated from generation to generation, according to the Bible: “the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation”(Ex 17: 16).
2) Indeed, whoever studies the history of the Coptic Church realizes how was persecution difficult throughout history: from the Roman persecution for the Christian faith, through the Byzantine persecution of a religious orthodoxy, and then introduction of Islam and the suffering of the Church and the Christian during the times of the fanatic rulers. Remember that our Lord who preserved His church through all these very difficult times, will also protect His church and his people these days, too.
3) That Christ our God has already foretold us the hardships and persecution we will face in this world, and therefore we should not marvel at what is happening as being strange, even if it happened in the 21st century which calls for the world’s ethical principles such as human rights, freedom and equality! Here are some verses recalling Christ’s words:
v “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Mt 24: 9).
v “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (Jn 15: 18).
v “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you: (Jn 15: 20).
v “the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service” (Jn 16: 2).
v “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16: 33).
Our God, who promised that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (the Church)” (Mt 16:18), and has already saved His church strong to this day, is able to protect her now also from all evil, oppression and injustice, and transform from the Church all the machinery of oppression and persecution that are against it.
Asking you to always remember the church in Egypt, that the Lord gives strength and wisdom to His Holiness the Pope, bishops, priests, and servants, and also bestows power on all those who are suffering. May the blessing of St. Mary & St. Mercurius be with us all.
Fr. Youssef Halim & Fr. Luke Istafanous
Belleville, November 1, 2011