Terry Derias | 2 June 2020
Terry Derias is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She is majoring in Nutritional Sciences and minoring in Health Disparities with hopes of attending medical school in the future.
Black Lives Matter
To the Coptic Orthodox community, unjust killings on the basis of identity are all too familiar. Although I know my own experiences cannot compare to those of African Americans in the United States, I hope to shed light on this topic by speaking about it in a manner that we can all relate to. I have no intentions of overshadowing the plight that black people are facing or make this about myself; on the contrary, I believe that we should uplift the voices of those who are most affected by the tragedies occurring in our nation, and try to use our privilege to create the changes we need in this country. I would also like to state that the views expressed in this post are entirely my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of all of OCCM.
I choose to stand in solidarity with African Americans. As a group of people that have historically been persecuted in Egypt, we have seen firsthand the horrors that befall minorities deemed second-class citizens in their own countries. Just as the Copts helped build Egypt into the country that it is today, black Americans have done the same for America. Just as the Copts are murdered in cold blood in Egypt, so are black Americans. Our battle to exist peacefully is universal. Because of this, we can empathize with the black community, and should use our voices to speak out against these injustices.
Many of our parents chose to immigrate to the United States for religious freedom. However, I have grown weary of a "freedom" that does not extend to everyone. Freedom should not be contingent on the color of one's skin. When my father dreamed of moving here as a kid, America seemed like a magical place. A place where everyone was equal, where anyone could become successful if they worked hard enough. As I have grown older, I have learned how far this is from reality. For some people, the system is actively working against them from the moment they are born. Despite the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, institutionalized racism has made inequities inescapable. The seeds of hatred against African Americans were planted long ago; this hatred has continued to grow and take on different forms over the years. From slavery, to segregation, to mass incarceration, our society keeps finding ways to control and dehumanize African Americans. Although I am thankful for the sacrifices my parents made to move here, I think it is important that we recognize the failings of our nation and realize that the very place that has become a safe haven for Copts is still a place of danger for black Americans.
As Christians, we are supposed to love each and every human that God has created. John 15:12 states that "This is My commandment, that you love on another, just as I have loved you." God does not want for there to be hatred of an entire race of His people. He does not want His creation to be tortured for the color of skin He gave them. We must not be like the Pharisees that prioritize maintaining the status quo over doing what is right. We must speak out and extend our love and support to the African American community. While Christ was alive, His followers risked their safety to be with Him. They remained committed to Him, despite the threats of the Roman government. It is not wrong for Christians to stand up against the injustices of this world - indeed, it is a testament to the love He showed us.
I admire the strength and bravery of the protestors of the Black Lives Matter movement. Police are macing children, blinding non-violent protestors with rubber bullets, and beating pregnant women to the point of miscarriage. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has added an extra layer of danger for the large crowds of protestors. My father has several health conditions, so I am not able to risk attending protests for fear of contracting the virus and spreading it to him. Despite not being able to protest, I am trying to do my part by signing petitions, donating money, and reading literature to become more educated on these issues. If you are interested in donating as well, you can send money to the GoFundMe pages for George Floyd's family and Ahmaud Arbery's mother, as well as organizations such as the Minnesota Freedom Fund and Brooklyn Bail Fund.
When I look down at the Coptic cross tattoo on my wrist, I no longer think of only the persecution of my people in Egypt. I think of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and the countless others who have been unjustly killed in this country. I think of how my dual identity as an Egyptian-American causes me to weep for both the safety of my family in Egypt and for the safety of African Americans in the United States. Matthew 5:44 states, "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." I pray that the racist mentality in this country changes. I pray that these ruthless murders stop happening. I pray that we will someday live in a world where we can all love each other and live peacefully, as Christ intended.