Monday, March 15, 2010
The Arabic Christian, Hany, quietly looked for a corner in the busy Cairo market to set up his little table. This would be his second attempt at giving out free New Testaments. The pastor of his house church had given him the requisite warnings and advice. "Allah" was in charge of that place and all of the authorities.
For the first two hours no takers. Most women, with faces covered, breezed by without making eye contact. A couple of curious elderly men, and evidently quite poor, took copies. A couple of little boys headed in Hany's direction but were re-routed by their mothers.
Then a group of five young men approached. The evident leader stepped forward and asked what he was trying to sell.
"Not selling anything. I have Gospels of Jesus which I would like to give away."
The cynical Egyptian took a copy, flipped through some pages, then threw it down into a puddle. He stepped forward boldly right into Hany's face, paused and slapped him across the side of the head. The surprise and the impact of it put the Christian down on his backside. His face registered only disappointment. He picked himself up and slapped off the dust. Facing the other he could only respond, "So, I guess you are not interested for the time being?"
The Muslim spun around, robe swishing, and paced away, "Allah be praised".
The remaining two hours were uneventful. A couple of elderly women engaged in conversation, but no Gospels changed hands.
The next week, undeterred, Hany was back in the same spot. Who should appear in the second hour, alone? The same man with the same sour disposition toward Christian "crusaders". He walked briskly up to Hany, stared at him for a full moment, and said: " I had been told some very peculiar things about people like you. It was said that if you were struck, you were compelled to turn the other cheek and to invite another blow, if necessary. No retaliation. This was the word of your prophet Jesus. Sure enough, last week you obeyed!"
"I would like to take one of your books, please. I will look at it this week. Perhaps next market I will bring some of my friends here as well."