By Mark Ellis —
On December 29th, 2017, ISIS fighters opened fire at a Coptic Orthodox church on the outskirts of Cairo. The orchestrated attack began 10 minutes after the service ended at St. Menas Church.
Of the 11 people killed, one was a young mother, Nermeen Sadiq. Her 13-year-old daughter Nesma was at her side when she was shot.
Nesma left the historic church – which dates back to the sixth century – with her cousin and mother. A prominent cross dangled from her mother’s neck.
“As we turned into a side street, we saw someone on a motorcycle heading toward the church,” Nesma told the Aid to the Church in Need Foundation.
The man on the motorcycle hit a pothole and crashed. Feeling compassion, Nesma’s mother ran up to the man to offer assistance.
“In the name of the Jesus Christ, are you okay?” she asked.
But the man surprised them by jumping up quickly and pulling out a weapon. “In a blink of an eye he opened fire on us with an automatic weapon he pulled out from under his vest,” Nesma said.
Nesma hid behind her mother when she saw the weapon. “Run away; run away!” her mother cried. They were only a few feet from the man.
“The terrorist first shot her in the arm while she was trying to protect us. As we ran away, she fell down and could not escape with us.
Nesma and her cousin ran into a small supermarket, where the sales girl hid them behind a refrigerator. From their hiding spot, they could see the attacker looking for them.
“When he couldn’t find us he turned to mom again and fired more shots at her. All this happened in few minutes.”
After the gunman left, they ran to Nesma’s mother. “Many people had gathered, but they all refused to touch my mom, to turn her over, even though she was still alive. I kept screaming for someone to help me, but no one did. I reached my uncle, who came right away.”
An ambulance arrived, but the emergency workers refused to put Nesma’s mother into the vehicle until they got permission from security officials who were hunting for the terrorist, as well as another shooter who had attacked people in front of the church.
“A gun battle erupted, and people fled. My cousin, my uncle and I stayed with my mother.”
As her mother was dying, she looked up at Nesma and said, “Do not be afraid, I’m with you. Obey your father and take care of your sister.”
She remained in the street for an hour. Nesma went back to the church and saw three people she knew laying in pools of blood near the front door.
“I knew they had been killed,” she said sadly. “By the time mom was taken into the ambulance she had died.”
Nesma does not walk alone in the streets anymore. Her father accompanies her everywhere.
“Despite the pain inside my heart—I miss my mother desperately—I am happy because she is a martyr and I don’t feel afraid of the terrorists anymore. I was with her at the time of the attack and did not even get injured: it was God’s will to specifically choose her to go to heaven.
“I do not want to leave my country, but I certainly want to find a better chance to live and study, especially since our financial situation isn’t good. My dad, who is 35, works as a driver, but he has no regular work; my mother provided the main source of income for our family; she was a nurse at the Cairo Kidney Center. I hope to become a doctor of nephrology; that was my mom’s dream for me.
“This is my message to all the persecuted people around the world: ‘Do not be afraid! Our lives are in God’s hands and we have to adhere to our faith.’”