Now that he is dead, I will write about him.
Ezzat, an Egyptian Christian, had been taken into custody at a bookstore across the border in Libya in the city of Benghazi. He and three other friends, also Christians but from different countries, had been placed under arrest for proselytizing.
An Egyptian friend had sent our prayer group an update of his status after his wife Ragga’s first visit. He had already been tortured so badly that he had been unable to walk without assistance. The letter had said that they were hoping for some intervention from our State Department. Despite the many moral failings that our country has exhibited, there still is something somewhere imbedded in our vision and concomitant statutes (or muscle) that have developed that give oppressed people in other lands hope that we can help.
Shortly after that, there was news that the State Department was briefed about the situation and was getting involved. Shortly after this, meteors began falling from the sky and burned out sports stars began visiting North Korea. During same this time, the Islamic officials in charge of Ezzat’s incarceration began shifting him through four different venues, playing hide and seek and making official accountability difficult. And they kept torturing him.
From what we were told, Ragga was somehow able to take pictures of his body before his funeral. Wounds from his torture were prominent. The official statement is that he died from complications from diabetes and heart disease. His body was laid to rest on Wednesday.
For Ezzat’s family back in Egypt, they are now faced with what their future will hold. They are not safe, and they are grieving. It is understandable if they decide to leave. There has been discussion about somehow bringing them to America. But if they apply for political asylum, my understanding is that they would be forever prohibited from returning to their homeland. And they love their land and their people who call it home. More than anyone, they are counting the cost of the choices that are being placed before them.
Last November at a conference, I saw our Egyptian friend again. The first time I met him the year before, we were part of a lunchtime caravan that included the French Gypsies (of course…) racing to In-N-Out Burger. This year, I finally got to meet his wife. She is a pharmacist, and has faced danger because people know that she is a Christian. Their family including their grown children has struggled with the thought of leaving. But they have all decided to stay…
There is a legend within the gypsy community that a part of their people came from Egypt. It is from this that the name ‘gypsy’ was derived. The legend is that satanic forces were enraged that the infant Jesus was hidden and safe in that land from the child killing hunt of Herod the Great. Demonic powers retaliated against the people of that land because it was there that Jesus and his parents found asylum after being warned by the Angel Gabriel to flee. As hellish violence was unleashed, Egyptians fled for their lives. They were scattered, became diaspora, and found refuge with the traveling community who had started their migration from India generations before.
The name ‘Egypt’ means dark. Sometimes darkness is not a word of malevolence but instead is a place of rest and protection. Like a womb, that dark and warm land kept Jesus and his parents hidden and safe until Herod died.
For Christians there now, it is not safe. And yet they stay. And they die.
What could be worse than what has happened to Ezzat, what is happening to his family, and what may happen to others?
Answer: Dying an ordinary death after living a life without value.
Quote of the Blog, from Austin O’Malley (1760-1854): “Some that will hold a creed unto martyrdom will not hold the truth against a sneering laugh.”
Image of Ezzat Atallah, courtesy of www.theinnoplex.com