September 2010 letter
A few days and the new Coptic year 1727 will start, which is linked to the martyrdom in our Coptic Church. If we calculate the difference between the Gregorian and Coptic years, we find a difference of 284 years, which is the year marking the start of reigning of Emperor Diocletian, who left behind martyrs allover the world. But Egypt had the largest share of them, because it was not just killing and torture of some individuals but of groups or the annihilation of entire cities. Below are just a few examples:
1) Martyrs of Esna: when Arianus the governor of Ansena went on a tour in Upper Egypt to personally oversee the implementation of the orders of the persecution of Christians, he visited the city of Esna more than once, and in each time a crop of martyrs came out: the first time cited mother Dolaji and her four children, in the second some lay leaders of the city, in the third a major massacre where thousands were martyred.
2) Martyrdom of 8140 in Akhmim by Arianus the governor, whose arrival in Akhmim coincided with the Christmas Holiday. The massacre continued for 3 consecutive days.
3) Martyrs of Theban Legion, whom were known for their courage and loyalty. When they refused to participate in the pagan practices before the war, the emperor ordered to kill them all. They numbered more than six thousand officers and soldiers.
4) St. Demiana: when she learned that her father the governor of Burullus denied the faith under the burden of oppression, she stood before him bravely and firmly told him: “I would have preferred to hear news of your death rather than leaving the true God.” Because of this, he returned to the Christian faith and was even martyred in the name of Christ. Later St. Demiana was martyred together with her forty companion virgins.
5) Martyrs of Alexandria, who numbered nine hundred and twenty, they were pagans and believed in Christ, thus the governor sentenced them to death by burning.
6) Martyrs of Athribis: by the end of reigning of Emperor Diocletian, Alexander the governor of Athribis tried to convince Copts to prostrate to idols. When they refused he killed one thousand five hundred martyrs.
As for the Church news, we thank God for the ordination of Dr. Rafik Istafanous by the name of Father Luke on Saturday August 7th 2010, by H. H. Pope Shenouda III. Currently Father Luke is serving a period of forty days in the monastery of St. Bishoy, and will return to the church on Sept. 16th, God willing.
Please remember the church, the priests, servants and their services in your prayers, and may the blessings of St. Mary & the blessing of holy martyrs be with us always, Amen.
Fr. Youssef Halim & Fr. Luke Istafanous
Belleville, September 1, 2010