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Shaping a New Future in Egypt View Comments
By Meghan and Jonathan Millea

A Muslim girl chants slogans and holds up a Quran and a cross during a rally to demonstrate unity between Muslims and Christians in Tahrir Square in Cairo, March 11, 2011. The rally took place after sectarian clashes had left 13 people dead.
I hope they have a future,” says Sister Joanna with a smile. Standing inside the small chapel of a Catholic school near Cairo, the petite Egyptian nun gazes outward, thinking. The four walls of Immaculate Heart School offer a refuge from Egypt’s revolutionary chaos, providing a safe place where young women have an opportunity to learn and grow. Eventually, equipped only with their education and faith, Sister Joanna’s students will leave, rushing back into the fog of an uncertain tomorrow. She adds, “What they see now is all black.” (For reasons of safety, this article uses pseudonyms for the school, students, and staff.)

This flourishing city of 18 million has grown tense and, at times, unwelcoming in the violent wake of the Arab Spring. Horrific stories of virginity tests, violent protests, unrestrained mob attacks, brutal religious killings, and kidnappings abound in daily conversation.

“It is rough for the revolution, for those who made the revolution,” Sister Joanna continues. “You can feel others want to destroy this revolution for the young. Young people want many, many things. They want to live their future. You can see their hands are empty. They need to grab something; they can’t grab anything with the situation they have now. Many, many of them have lost their way.”

Egypt’s future remains in doubt. Power struggles abound as the military vies for control, an elected parliament is dissolved, and a formal constitution needs to be written. A small ray of hope emerged in June 2012 with Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Muhammad Morsi. However, Morsi’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood makes many Egyptians nervous, especially Christians. Since its inception in 1928, the Brotherhood has had strained relationships with Christians.

While institutionalized discrimination toward Christians existed throughout Hosni Mubarak’s administration (1981–2011), particularly in terms of hiring and land-use practices, prospects for unity between Christians and the Muslim majority have since deteriorated. Open conflict and bloodshed have replaced security.

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Meghan Millea, a journalist for the Times-Reporter in Dover-New Philadelphia, Ohio, traveled to Egypt after her Middle Eastern studies at Kent State University. Jonathan Millea is an airport development consultant and technical writer.

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Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions: Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter. 
<p>His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that "he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him." </p><p>At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan. </p><p>They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, "I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there." In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution. </p><p>They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears. </p><p>The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions. </p><p>In Lorenzo's moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, "I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life." The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators. </p><p>The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded. </p><p>In 1987, Blessed John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog We don’t have to scrub off our sin so God can love us. Instead, when we allow God’s healing love to touch us, we want to leave sin behind. Growth starts in love, not in guilt.

 
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