Should I still go to Church? Father Jonathan Ishak of St Mark’s Church in Sydney recounts this story
Coptic dioceses all around the world were not spared from these threats! Eight parishes in Sydney alone received threats of bombs from Muslim terrorist groups. St. Mark’s Church in Sydney was one of those Churches, in which the parish’s name was posted online, as one of those targeted by this Muslim association.
Consequently, the same level of fear and confusion quickly spread amongst Coptic families, and Satan attacked the joy and the peace of this happy occasion that year.
This incident happened a few hours before Christmas Eve’s Service. As I was sitting next to a co-priest in Church, he received a telephone call from one of the youth, who was very scared when she learned of the bomb threat! The girl asked the priest “Is it ok if I don’t attend Christmas Eve Liturgy? I am really scared that I will die tonight”. The priest had to lead his congregation in the spirit of “Have No Fear of Death”. The Holy Spirit spoke on his behalf and he responded very calmly, “It is your decision; but we will all be at Church tonight to celebrate the birth of Christ. If nothing happens you will have a great blessing of attending this special night; but if something happens and you are at home, while the rest of the congregation and your friends are martyred, you will regret the fact that You are not part of this strong faith of martyrdom . The girl came and attended the midnight liturgy!
As in the case of Egypt, the parishes in Sydney were packed on Chrismas Eve, with Copts celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus.
A pastor from a neighbouring Church (non—Coptic Orthodox) heard about the threat and asked if he could attend the service with us that night. His exact words were, “I have never experienced praying in a Church under threat and fear of death. I would love to experience part of the feeling of the martyrs of the Church”. He attended the entire Liturgy.
At around 10:00 pm, a great explosion was heard outside the parish. We kept praying. We did not know its source. It was not inside the parish but on the street outside. People came out of the service very joyful. The Spirit of the “confessors’ that poured upon them was the source of joy that year. We experienced “prayer under the fear of death”
Thanks to our Almighty God (and to the Police who offered extra security to the Coptic Church on that night) that no incidents, beside this explosion, outside St Mark church, were reported.
In fact, for the last two years 201 1-2013, Copts in Egypt iave been living in this ‘Fear of Death’ every time they go to Church; a decision they make boldly for Christ every time!