The cross as a symbol of strength, redemption and belonging for Christians in Egypt.
In Egypt it’s a tradition for Christians to tattoo a cross on their wrist to celebrate their identity in Christ. They often use the Coptic version of the cross which has four equal sides.
But wearing a cross is not without risks. Recently, 27-year-old Bassem Herz Attalhah was killed because of a cross tattoo on his wrist. His murderers threatened to repeat their crime and kill more Christians.
The killing of Bassem is an extreme example of what Christians in Egypt face every day – persecution and harassment because of their faith in Jesus. Despite this, they don’t hide their cross tattoos.
Below, eight Christians share about their love for the cross and what their tattoo means to them.
Sabah, 52-years-old, has had her cross tattoo since she was 12-years-old.
“For me, the cross is a symbol of strength and redemption. It is a great blessing. When I look at the cross on my wrist I remember the passion of Christ. I feel tranquility and peace.”
“Many people become angry and treat me badly when they see the cross tattoo on my hand. I don’t feel any pain or anger when they do that, I pray to God and He comforts me and gives me joy. No matter how we are oppressed, Jesus is with us.”
Ramzy, 25-years-old, has had his cross tattoo since he was 5-years-old.
“The cross tattoo helps me to get away from starting to do any evil [sin], when I look at the cross on my hand I remember the crucifixion of Christ and the pains he endured for the sake of my salvation and that gives me the strength to overcome any devilish thought or any sin. The cross protects me from all evil.”
“I always go to the homes of our customers to repair their washing machines and refrigerators, some of the Muslim customers don’t allow me to enter their homes when they see the cross tattoo on my hand, and that isn’t a strange thing for us; we are often hated and persecuted because of our faith.”
Zuzu, 42-years-old, got her cross tattoo when she was 7-years-old.
“I often face harassment because of my tattoo. One day when I was on the bus one of the passengers, a veiled Muslim woman, wanted to sit down beside me. But before sitting down she asked me if I was a Muslim or a Christian. I answered that I was Christian and showed her the cross tattooed on my wrist. She then refused to sit down beside me and got out of the bus.”
“Jesus was persecuted for us, so it is an honor for me to be persecuted for him. I am not afraid; with this cross tattoo, I feel that Christ is on my wrist. I have five children, and I have taught them to be brave and not to deny Christ either. They all have a cross tattoo.”
Mounir, 36-years-old, got his first cross tattoo when he was 4-years-old.
“I am always insulted and harassed by police officers when they see the cross tattoos on my hands. I like my religion and I’m proud that I’m Christian. And I’m not afraid of anything. Jesus himself was persecuted, and He told us in Bible that in this world we will have trouble, but He has overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
“Like many other Christian parents in Egypt, we had our son Mario tattooed with two crosses: one on his wrist and one on his hand. My wife and I decided to do this because we believed that it would help us to teach him a love for the cross and a love for Jesus. We hope he will be proud of his cross and stay faithful to the Lord.”
Warda, 18-years-old, got her cross tattoo when she was 3-years-old.
“I am very proud of my cross tattoo. The cross tattoo shows others that I am a Christian, and I like that. I want all the people to know that I am a Christian. The Lord is good, He is the source of our strength and protection. I trust Him so much.”
“I am not afraid of persecution. The only one I fear is God. Like the Bible says: ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’” (Matthew 10:28)
Ehab, 35-years-old, got his first cross tattoo at 4-years-old.
“My name is common among Christians as well as Muslims, but as soon as people see my hand or arm, they know that I belong to Jesus. The cross tattoo has some helpful practical uses too, for instance, the church guard will quickly identify you as Christian and let you into church.”
“But having the cross tattooed also brought me a lot of trouble. Some colleagues don’t want to work with me because I am a Christian. But this is nothing new for me. Jesus already told us in the Bible that the world would hate us because we are Christians. And I am proud to be a Christian, and proud to show it, no matter what.”
Essam, 15-years-old, has had her cross tattoo since she was 3-years-old.
“I am not afraid because there is a cross on my hand. The cross is my life, I cannot live without it. May I never boast except in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The cross on my hand shows that I’m Christian to all people. I’m proud of my religion.”
Hanna, 46-years-old, got his first cross tattoo when he was 3-years-old.
“I remember back in 2007, as I was returning home from work by bus, a Muslim person on the bus became angry and spat on the ground when he saw the cross tattoo on my wrist. After that day I decided to get another cross tattoo because I’m proud of the cross. It is a symbol of victory and strength for me.”
“Having the tattoos also brings with it a responsibility. The cross tattoo shows that we are Christians. We are the ambassadors of Christ on earth. So with the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts, we shouldn’t only show our faith through our tattoo, but also through our good deeds.”
“Jesus－Light of the Egyptian Church” Join us at any of the meetings (May 10-20) in Hong Kong and Taiwan to hear from Michael (pseudonym) , an Egyptian Christian who is an elder in his church. Michael will bring to us first-hand stories of the church in Egypt, and tell us of God’s mighty work there.