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Egypt: Two widowed by Palm Sunday attacks share memories of their husbands
13 April 2017
On Palm Sunday, at least 45 people were killed in Islamic State-linked bomb attacks on two churches in Egypt. Below, the widows of two men who gave their lives that day share the memories of their husbands and the events of that fateful day.
Samira: Widow of Naseem Fahmi (54) - father-of-two and guard at Saint Mark's Church, Alexandria
"I am sure Naseem has been happy to give his life for Christ," Samira says, dressed in the black of mourning. "When we talked about (his vulnerability as a guard) one day, he said that he would be willing to defend the church with his own blood. Last Sunday, he did."
Naseem was one of the men guarding Saint Mark's Church during last Sunday's visit by Coptic Pope Tawardos. When a suicide bomber tried to enter the church, Naseem stopped him and asked him to pass through the metal detector first. There, the bomber blew himself up. Naseem did not survive, but his actions saved the lives of many others.
"I am proud of what my husband did," Samira says, "but life has become hard for me after his death. He was everything in my life." The widow remembers another part from her conversation with her husband: "He told me that he knew me and the kids needed him, but that he also knew that God would take care of us if something might happen to us... Naseem's life was at the church, and now his life is in heaven. I know he is in a good place."
Samira shares a loving message for the killer and those in Egypt who would also consider extremist violence: "I forgive you and I ask God to forgive you. I pray that God may open your eyes to light your minds."
Naseem was a husband and a father of two adult sons. In two months he would have become a grandfather for the first time. He also was a beloved church member. He served the church for over 20 years. He died at the age of 54.
You can see an interview with Samira in which she stuns the Muslim presenter into silence on Egypt's ONTV, translated by the Bible Society.
Sara: Widow of Michael Nabil Ragheb (28) - a pharmacist, father-of-one and deacon in Saint George Church, Tanta
"This is doomsday," that is what Sara thought last Sunday morning when, during the church service, she heard a gigantic blast and the church turned dark. "Michael had sensed that something like this was going to happen. The day before, on our daughter's (Priscilla's) third birthday, he told us he thought he would soon be among the martyrs in heaven. He also told me and my daughter that he would be missing us."
The dreary premonition led Michael to ask his wife and daughter to sit on the back benches, instead of close to him in front of the church. "I was a bit surprised about that," his wife tells Open Doors. "But looking back I know that it was God's will." After leaving his family on the last bench of the church, Michael put on his deacon rope and went to the front of the church where he was in charge of singing that day. "He asked me to wait for him after the service. But he never came back."
Sara will never be able to wipe the horrible images of what happened next from her memory. "It was about ten past nine. All of the sudden I heard the sound of a big explosion, the church shook like there had been an earthquake. The smoke filled the church and it became dark while I heard people screaming. I was screaming too. I was screaming the name of my husband and rushed to the place of the deacon choir, where I hoped to find him alive."
It is difficult for Sara to continue her story. "What I saw on my way to him was horrible, like a massacre had just taken place. The bodies of dead church members and even body parts were scattered among pools of blood. Then I saw my husband. I was in shock. He was just lying there in a pool of blood like the others. Gone to heaven like he had sensed would happen."
Sara and Michael had been married for four years. Sara and their daughter, Priscilla, will have to continue their lives without their beloved husband and father. "I loved him so much," Sara says. She sees it as a sacrifice for Christ, but not one she has to make without Him: "Despite everything, God has blessed me with comfort, peace and great grace in my heart.
"My husband lived a life of heaven on earth. He was always praying and reading the Bible. I am happy for him. He is in a good place now, in Heaven, in front of the throne of Grace. He is there with Jesus."
Michael's Uncle shares: "He was very diligent man. He graduated from the faculty of pharmacy with a grade of excellence, and graduated from the Coptic Theological clerical college. From his childhood onwards he was very involved in ministry. He was a very obedient person, humble, honest. He served at Saint George church since 2006 and was teaching the children in Sunday school. He was a deacon. We are sure that he went to a good place in Heaven and that comforts us."
Source: Open Doors
- For Samira and her two children, that they would know God's hand of grace and peace upon them at this time
- For the family of Michael - Sara, Priscilla, his parents and extended family - that they would be comforted in the midst of grief
- That all those affected by the bombings would know the Lord's presence, His goodness and His love
- For safety for believers in Egypt following these attacks, that believers would be able to worship His name and act as salt and light to those around them.
More News from Egypt:
- 'We are Christians' - How the tragic bus attack unfolded
- Over 20 Coptic Christians killed and 27 wounded
- Pope Francis visits Egypt despite security concerns
- Solemn Easter celebrations as mourning continues for bomb victims
- At least 49 killed in Palm Sunday church blasts
Find out more about persecution in Egypt.