Friday 13 October 2017

Samaan’s misfortune

Fr. Saaman Shehata
A run of misfortune yesterday left one man dead in Egypt.

The bad luck began with the fact that Samaan Shehata was from Beni Suef, a poor region in Egypt. Because of that poverty, he had offered to go to Cairo to gather humanitarian aid which had been made available to his community.

The next stroke of bad luck was the fact that a crazy man – at least the police considered him crazy even though he was not diagnosed by a professional – saw him walking down the street and decided to give chase. Unfortunately the mad man had a knife, with which he stabbed him several times.

There were plenty of people on the street, but as luck would have it, nobody came to his aid.

But apparently Samaan did not die straight away. But he was terribly unfortunate in that it took over na hour for the ambulance to arrive and, when it did, he was unlucky in that the first responders decided not to attend to his wounds.

The police arrived later and partly due to misfortune, partly because they already knew the killer was a mad man – even though he had not been diagnosed by a professional – they didn’t set up a crime scene or investigate further.

In the midst of all this misfortune, there is one coincidence. All this happened on the same day that Aid to the Church in Need presented a report in Lisbon, where I live and work, which concluded that Christian persecution has reached levels never before seen in history. That means that we are worse off now than we were when the Romans had Christians devoured by wild animals in the arena.

What does this have to do with Samaan Shehata? It so happens that Samaan is a Coptic Christian priest. As a Coptic priest he would have been easily identifiable by his long black cassock and traditional hat. He would have been easy to spot by somebody – crazy or not – who would want to kill him. And as luck would have it there is no shortage of men in Egypt – crazy or not – who want to kill Christians.

On second thought, maybe none of this had anything to do with misfortune at all. Because this story is becoming all to common, it’s happened too many times before, to be put down to bad luck. Misfortune had nothing to do with the fact that bombs were placed in Egyptian churches in April this year, killing almost 50 people. Misfortune did not kill the pilgrims whose buses were pulled over, massacred by automatic gunfire by the side of the road.

Father Saaman’s parishioners have been left without a pastor. His wife – Coptic priests are traditionally married – is now a widow and his children orphans. But that isn’t bad luck either. It’s just one of the risks that comes with being a Christian in the Middle East.

Filipe d'Avillez 

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