Well into the story of The Coptic Martyr of Cairo by Martin Roth, a Coptic Christian pastor in Egypt speaking to an American visitor says, “Our faith is in God, not governments. You are in a relationship with God, and you seem to believe that He tells you to lobby politicians. We are in a relationship with God, and He tells us that we shall suffer, and that some of us – perhaps many of us – will die. That is why the Egyptian church has lasted for two thousand years and will continue until the glorious return of Jesus. How long do you expect your church to last?” This quotation beautifully states the conflict that drives a riveting story.
As the story opens, the body of a recently-murdered Coptic priest is uncovered at the site of an archeological dig in Egypt. This discovery sets off a firestorm among both Christians and Muslims in Cairo. The story’s building tensions parallel tensions in Egypt and across the Muslim world where Christians are not welcome. As timely as the nightly news, this narrative fleshes out headlines from the Middle East in memorable characters. A saintly pastor who talks about the way his testimony under persecution for Christ makes him the victor, not the victim. An American scholar whose Christian compassion for the persecuted is shaped by American ideals and activism on behalf of the vulnerable. A young Muslim whose passion for the purity of Islam drives him to behaviors non-Muslims find reprehensible. A martial arts team whose mission is the protection of persecuted Christians and the defeat of persecutors. It is an inflammable blend that creates an explosive story.
The daily controversy in the US over foreign aid to Egypt and the relationship between the Egyptian president and militant Islam will look different after you read this well-researched book. The accuracy of setting and plot elements can be verified by visits to Christian Persecution Magazine, International Christian Concern, or World Watch Monitor . The story would be just as readable if the setting and details were pure fantasy. Roth explores timeless questions of faith under fire. Like other great writers such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Roth probes the souls of those in whom faith, or the lack of it, runs amok. He asks if a willingness to be martyred for faith actually invites unnecessary martyrdom. Attentive readers will not miss the dissection of similarities and differences between Islamic and Christian ideals of martyrdom. He questions whether it might be better to resist and live to fight another day. He puts a magnifying glass to the quest to know whether violent resistance to unprovoked abuse escalates or squelches the assaults. In the process he lays bare the dynamics of a culture war in Egypt that mirrors events in countries around the world where Islam is the dominant religion. Fast action and rich setting make for a lively tale that is simultaneously memorable and unsettling.
When Brother Half Angel, the eponymous hero of this series of thrillers, enters the conflict, the outcome is shocking and disturbing. The surprise ending will leave the reader breathless, compelled to ponder issues that undoubtedly impede the nightly slumber of diplomats around the world.
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I received this book at no charge for the purpose of review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”