Image: Priest Benjamin Moftah
Last October, priest Samaan Shehata was stabbed to death on the streets of Cairo while collecting funds for the poor. His friend and fellow priest Benjamin Moftah was with him when it happened. Our contact in Egypt visited him to talk about the death of his friend and how the event influenced his own faith.
It was a busy day in the church when we visited Father Benjamin in his rural Egyptian village. The children were practising their songs in the chapel downstairs while builders are working on a new chapel upstairs. As villagers led their cows back to the stable for the night, Father Benjamin began sharing. “I love Jesus,” he said. “I want to live close to Him. Be as close to Him as a man is close to his wife.”
Image: Coptic Christian children in rural Egypt practicing Christian songs in church
He was eager to share about his good friend, priest Samaan, who lived in the nearby village. The two had been friends since they studied together, and Father Benjamin had great respect for his friend who was dedicated to serving God. “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 collect funds for this work.”
But Priest Samaan’s faith and service came with a price. Even though he was also helping Muslims, or maybe because of it, he was occasionally threatened by fanatics. That didn’t stop him. However, on that day in October 2017, his dedication cost him his life. Together with Father Benjamin, he went to Cairo to collect funds for his work among the poor when a young man wielding a meat cleaver blocked the vehicle and forced Samaan to get out.
Later, the attacker would declare that he had been waiting near the local church to find a priest to kill. “Christians are infidels and killing them is a religious duty,” he said. The attacker succeeded in his mission—he injured priest Benjamin and killed priest Samaan.
Image: The family of father Samaan who was killed in October 2017
Father Benjamin misses his friend, but he isn’t sad. “In Jesus there is no fear of death. Priest Samaan is in a good place now with Christ who He loves so much.” Priest Benjamin still lives on earth, but he feels close to Christ as well. “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.”
The incident hasn’t impacted priest Benjamin’s work among the villagers negatively. In fact, after the death of his friend, he became even more fearless. “I feel like I can move even more freely after the death of priest Samaan. I just do what God asks of me. Fear would make me passive,” he says. “My biggest desire is to be with God, for now this is on earth as He hasn’t called me home yet. But if I die, I still am with God in heaven. My life belongs to God.”
The killer of Father Samaan was sentenced to death in January 2018.
- For the Lord’s comfort for father Samaan’s family.
- For protection for Christians and Church leaders in Egypt, they will live close to the Lord and find strength in Him.
- That those responsible for the killings will be touched by God’s love and will repent.
Egypt Ranks No.17
Source of Persecution: Islamic oppression