In Egypt, Believer Echoes Easter Hope in the Wake of Witnessing Friend’s Death
When his friend is murdered, one man finds hope in the truth behind Easter
For Christians, the importance of Easter cannot be overemphasized. Not the traditions or festivities themselves, but rather what they point to – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In his first letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
But because Christ has been raised, Paul adds, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
It is this Easter hope that assures persecuted believers like Benjamin Mofta of Egypt to place their faith in Christ alone, even when life is threatened and the lives of those around them are taken. Mofta shares how the death of his friend and fellow Coptic priest Samaan Shehata–and his own near-fatal counter–has emboldened his faith.
“I love Jesus,” Benjamin says. “I want to live close to Him. Be as close to Him as a man is close to his wife.”
It is this love for his Savior that has both sustained and strengthened Benjamin Mofta’s faith in the wake of the brutal attack that took the life of his friend/fellow priest Samaan Shehata. He was 45.
Before the attack, the two Coptic priests had received occasional threats from radical Muslims. But in Egypt, threats from Muslim extremists, especially when you’re a church leader, are part of the Christian experience. In 2017, more than 170 Christians in Egypt were killed for their faith.
“The threats didn’t seem to faze him,” Mofta says of his friend. “He really loved the people of his village, both Christian and Muslim. He helped all of them regardless of their religion. And he made long, tiring trips to Cairo to collect funds for this work and serve those in need.”
Paying the Price
But last fall in the public streets of El-Marg, an urban suburb of northern Cairo, everything changed on October 12, 2017–the same day Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi extended for the second time a state of emergency declared in April after two deadly bombings targeting Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria.
On one of their ministry trips, Mofta and Shehata had come to Cairo to visit a family there and were reportedly in Samaan’s vehicle when a young man with a meat cleaver blocked their car, stabbing and attacking Saaman.
The man, reportedly a Muslim extremist affiliated with Islamic State, later confessed he had been lying in wait near the local church because in his words, “Christians are infidels, and killing them is a religious duty.”
The man succeeded in his mission that day, killing Shehata and injuring Mofta.
Life After Death
In the wake of Samaan’s death, Mofta says he is living more boldly for his faith.
“I feel like I can move even more freely,” he says. “I just do what God asks of me. Fear would make me passive.
“I live my life with Christ,” he explains. “I start the day with prayer, alone and with my family. And throughout the day I keep praying. I lift my heart towards God. He is very much part of my daily life. He lives inside me.”
Mofta lives with the hope found only in Christ’s death and resurrection.
“In Jesus, there is no fear of death,” he says. “Priest Samaan is in a good place now with Christ, who he loves so much.”
He echoes the Apostle Paul: “My biggest desire is to be with God, but for now He hasn’t called me home yet,” he says. “But if I die, I still am with God in Heaven. My life belongs to God.”
Large photo above: The wife and children of Coptic Priest Samaan Shehata