I was stopped by the police as I was walking into our church compound for worship this morning. “What is your name?” I was a little nervous, I have never been stopped by them before.
“Stephanie,” I told him.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Yes, I'm American.”
At this point, our usual gatekeeper came out and said something in Arabic and the officer told me I could go on in.
Some other members we questioned or had to show their ID's before entering. The increase in security is a result of a bombing that happened on New Years. The bombing was in Alexandria, a city a couple of hours away from us. In the bombing, 22 people were killed and many others were wounded as they were leaving a church service. In the aftermath there has been some protesting, some anger, a lot of sadness, and some solidarity between Christians and Muslims.
We should tell you that the violence here was aimed at Egyptians and not foreigners. Our everyday life has not been interrupted and we feel as safe as ever. Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones, or who feel uncertain about their safety now.
Last night was Coptic (Egyptian Christian) Christmas Eve. A woman at church told us the story of the Christmas Eve service her daughter attended. Inside the church it was packed. All of the seats were full and there were crowds of people standing. Outside the church, Muslim men stood guard. They were lined up along the outer gates and sides of the compound. These men were not paid, not security guards, they were everyday Egyptians, in a powerful display of solidarity with their Christian neighbors. Thanks be to God for this.
Let us join with the Egyptian people as we pray for healing and peace in this place.