Two Rows by the Sea

When I signed up for Writing 201: Poetry course, I had every intention of writing a poem everyday according to the daily prompt. I figured it would be a crash course on creative writing, something I’ve been wanting lately to explore. But. Life happens. At the moment, I’ve lost all drive to compose, much less string words into verses.

No, it’s not because the hubby has been gone for more than a week and the load on my shoulders has doubled. Rather, I read a poem that made me realize my aspirations for poetry have been centered on me, me and only me. Yes, even though the last one I published was to highlight the pain that women go through years after having an abortion (believe it or not, I cried each time I sat down to write it)

Nothing inherently wrong there, really. Don’t we all want to be the best of what we dream to be? But reading the poem below confronted me with the shallowness of my Christianity.

Two rows of men walked the shore of the sea
On a day when the world’s tears would run free,
One a row of assassins, who thought they did right,
The other of innocents, true sons of the light,
One holding knives in hands held high,
The other with hands empty, defenseless and tied,
One row of slits to conceal glaring-dead eyes,
The other with living eyes raised to the skies,
One row stood steady, pall-bearers of death,
The other knelt ready, welcoming heaven’s breath,
One row spewed wretched, contemptible threats,
The other spread God-given peace and rest.
A Question…
Who fears the other?
The row in orange, watching paradise open?
Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?
                                                      Two Rows by the Sea

Doubtless you will have read about the Egyptian Christians who were martyred for their faith and the Syrian Christians who have been kidnapped. Maybe you’re thinking “Oh, that would never happen in my corner of the world.” Well, guess what – they’re near my corner of the world. The Egyptian Coptics were laborers who came to Libya to earn more money. I see workers just like them each time I walk around town. I even employ one as a part-time gardener even though he doesn’t speak much English. And just thinking about their families and how their children will never see them again breaks my heart. To the point that I’ve lost all desire to write poems. At the moment.

So I am re-printing here the newsletter sent out by Ramez Atallah who is general director of the Bible Society of Egypt in response to the mass slaying of his Christian brothers.

“They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated, the world was not worthy of them.” (Hebrews 11:37- 38)

Dear friends,

This is a very sad time in Egypt where we are in seven days of official mourning for the 21 young Christian men who were brutally slaughtered by ISIS in Libya on Sunday. The gruesome, professionally-produced video of that execution shocked the country and has united Christians and Muslims as never before. As soon as the video was broadcast on Sunday evening, the President delivered a speech declaring 7 days of mourning for the nation. Shortly afterwards the Egyptian Air Force bombed ISIS targets in Libya.

As I arrived at the Bible Society office in the morning, feeling sad and depressed, I met a young coworker who told me that she was “very encouraged.” I could not imagine what on earth could encourage her!

“I am encouraged” she said, “because now I know that what we have been taught in history books about Egyptian Christians being martyred for their faith is not just history but that there are Christians today who are brave enough to face death rather than deny their Lord! When I saw these young men praying as they were being prepared for execution and then many of them shouting “O Lord Jesus” as their throats were being slit, I realized that the Gospel message can still help us to hold on to the promises of God even when facing death!”

This same sentiment is being reflected in different ways by people who watched that gruesome video!

I don’t think I will ever read Chapter 11 of the Epistle to the Hebrews again without seeing in my mind the images of these men dressed in orange jump suits with black-clad, masked executors behind each one of them!

As many of you know, these men were simple, Egyptian laborers who had gone to Libya to make a living. They were captured and executed by ISIS for being – as the video caption charges – “People of the Cross”. Egyptians have been shocked by this news and it is the most talked about event in our country at this time.

The purpose of the video was to foment sectarian strife in Egypt between Christians and Muslims. Those Islamic extremists clearly intended to provoke the 10 million Christians in Egypt to rise up violently against their Muslim neighbors.

But the loving and caring response of Muslims all over the nation softened the blow which many Christians felt. Up till now the Christians of Egypt have responded with restraint, sorrowfully calling out to God.

The President and dozens of political leaders personally gave their condolences to the Coptic Pope. The Prime Minister travelled to the small village where most of these men come from, sitting on the floor with their poor relatives to express his concern. All this sends a clear message that Christians are considered an integral part of the fabric of Egyptian society.

Prayer Requests
1. Pray for comfort for the families of the victims who are in a terrible emotional state.
2. Pray for the effective mass distribution of a Scripture tract we have just produced (above left), that God’s Word will comfort and challenge the many who will receive it.
3. As I write, there is news of more Egyptians being kidnapped in Libya. Lord have mercy!

Please pray for Egypt as we pass through this painful period.

With much thanks,

Ramez Atallah
General Director
The Bible Society of Egypt

*Two Rows by the Sea is a booklet published by the Bible Society of Egypt in response to the mass murder of the 21 Egyptian Christian workers in Libya.

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