On December 11 2016, a massive bomb exploded during a church service at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, which is located adjacent to the famed St. Mark’s Cathedral in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. An explosive device, containing 26 lbs of TNT, was detonated as Coptic Christians gathered to worship. It killed 29 people and injured a further 47.
“They wanted to destroy the innocent lives of people praying, at a time we are facing great economic challenges,” Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, told Christianity Today at the time.
“Now they want to hit our unity. But this is a time of solidarity, as we stand with the Orthodox Church and our country.”
One of those caught up in the blast was Samiha Tawfiq Awad. She was sitting in the women’s section of the traditional Coptic Church when the bomb detonated right next to her.
Awad’s husband, Qalini, was seated in the main church. When he heard the explosion, he rushed to find his wife and check she was alright, but she had disappeared. He eventually found her at the hospital. Samiha was in a grave condition. “She won’t survive,” the doctors told her husband.
Fast forward a year, and everything is different. Samiha suffered horrific injuries, but incredibly, she survived. “The doctors might’ve given up on Samiha, but God had another plan!” Qalini told Open Doors. Samiha lost an entire side of her face in the attack, which was perpetrated by the Islamic State.
“They put me on the list of dead victims of the attack already,” Samiha explained. “The doctors thought it was useless to treat me, so they just came to check on me now and then to see if I was already dead. But I stayed alive.”
Astonishingly, Samiha recalled seeing Jesus as she lay on floor injured from the massive blast. “I don’t remember much of the explosion and the first days after it,” she said, “But I remember that I saw Jesus on the ceiling when I was lying on the ground after the explosion.”
“I would have been willing to die for Jesus,” Samiha continued, “but the fact that he kept me alive so miraculously tells me that he wants me to live.”
Her husband has been on a journey of forgiveness towards those responsible for his wife’s pain and suffering – on one side of her face, Samiha cannot see, smell or hear.
“My faith tells me to forgive. So every time I feel angry, I sit down with my bible and browse to the Sermon on the Mount,” Qualini explained. “There, Jesus says we should forgive our enemies. It helps me to read that part over and over again.”
Samiha herself does not feel any anger at all – she only prays that those behind this brutal attack would come to know Jesus Christ themselves.
“If I would meet the family of the attacker, the only thing I would ask them is: ‘Do you know Jesus?’ I pray they will find the right way.”