I happened to be in al-Duweir village, Assiut governorate, with friends and family when we heard the shocking news of the bombing of the two churches. We had just been exchanging well wishes for Palm Sunday and Easter, and suddenly everything changed as the magnitude of the crime and casualties became apparent.
This isn’t the first terrorist crime or the first time our churches have been targeted. But coming on Palm Sunday, with the terrifying number of victims and speculation that Pope Tawadrus was a target in the Alexandria bombing, compounded the trauma and seemed to suggest we’re on the cusp of a new stage of violence and escalation, a readiness to overstep all religious, human, and even political red lines.
As people gathered in the evening, there was a general sense that these crimes are not a demonstration of strength, but of weakness and desperation, contempt for human life and a willingness to sacrifice any number of innocent people for nothing. If the goal was to cleave national ranks and drive a wedge between Muslims and Christians then Sunday’s crimes as well as previous attacks on churches achieved the opposite: cohesion and a determination not to fall into the sectarian trap. And in Duweir on Sunday, Muslims’ expression of solidarity with their neighbors, friends, and colleagues in that critical moment and their conviction that this was a crime against all of Egypt and all Egyptians demonstrated that. If the goal was to spread fear and panic, the initial shock at the news was replaced by the end of the day with feelings of anger, defiance, and a determined refusal to yield to the power of terrorism. And If the goal was to depict the state as weak and unable to protect its citizens, this crime only fueled Egyptians’ insistence on rallying around the nation.
Nevertheless, it’s naïve to deny the consequences of the crime. The dead and wounded, whether worshippers or policemen who did their duty to the end, are the biggest, most irreplaceable loss. The shock at the magnitude of the crime has also shaken people’s sense of security. On the economic side, which I imagine is one of the major targets, we will certainly lose the little ground gained recently in bringing back tourism, returning to square one. These are all genuine challenges, and understanding their scope and dealing with them pragmatically doesn’t mean that terrorism has won.
It is a difficult time for everyone, and our most effective weapon is to stay unified and insist on moving forward, refusing to retreat in any way. But our victory over terrorism must not only stop its bloody acts but also champion the values and principles of justice, freedom, the civil state, and the law, which terrorism seeks to crush.
My heartfelt condolences to family and friends of the victims and I wish a speedy recover to the injured and peace and unity to the Egyptian people.