“I was shocked to find my husband soaked in blood, “It was a very terrible view.”
On May 26, 2017, gunmen opened fire on vehicles carrying Coptic Christians on their way to a monastery in the Minya province of Egypt, killing 29 Christians and leaving at least 23 others wounded. The dead included children, older adults and laborers. The attack was claimed by ISIS.
An Open Doors contact recently visited with Hanaa Youssef Mikhael, the widow of one of the laborers who was killed that day. Ayad Habib Tawadros Youssef and his two sons, Marco (14) and Mina (10) and six other workers were traveling in a pickup truck on their way to Saint Samuel Monastery when they were attacked by Islamic extremists. As a skilled laborer, Ayad had planned to take his young sons on a trip to the monastery to show them his work. The two boys saw their father killed before their eyes after he refused to deny Jesus.
Hanaa Youssef remembers that day and shares her story below with open doors, what life has been like for her family over the past year without Ayad.
The day, Friday, May 26, 2017, started with a 6 am phone call for Ayad. For more than 20 years, Ayad worked as a skilled laborer making bells for Saint Samuel Monastery in Upper Egypt’s Minya province. The day would be hot, working in the heat of Egypt’s western desert. The workers wanted to get an early start to avoid the 80-degree temperatures typical of this time of year. Ayad took his two young sons, Marco and Mina, with him to show them his work and teach them his trade.
Hanaa knows the route to the monastery well. She knows how long it takes to get there from her village and the area when cellphones no longer work on the unpaved road. That morning, she called Ayad and Marco several times, checking in.
“I used to do that every time they were going to the monastery—until their mobiles were unavailable,” she says. “I knew then that they were driving in the area that has no signal close to the entrance of the monastery.”
The last time she talked to Ayad was 7:40 am.
An hour later, her cell phone rang. It was her husband’s number. But it wasn’t Ayad.
“Marco was on the phone and was crying and said to me that they were attacked and his father is in a critical condition,” Hanaa says. “I told him we would come quickly.”
Driving a caravan of five pickup trucks and her nephew Ehab’s microbus, Hanaa, Ehab, her brother-in-law and other relatives rushed to the monastery. The first thing they saw on the unpaved desert path was a two-car police checkpoint. Quickly, they told officials they had victims there and kept driving. Only then did police call an ambulance. Ehab’s microbus was faster than the trucks so he drove ahead.
The next thing Hanaa saw was Ehab returning with Ayad. Hanaa got out of the truck and sat beside her husband. She wasn’t prepared for what she would see.
“I was shocked to find my husband soaked in blood,” she remembers. “It was a very terrible view.”
An ambulance met the microbus en route. On the way to the hospital, medics tried to resuscitate Ayad and treat him.
“He passed away before reaching the hospital,” Hanaa says, adding that the ambulance arrived two hours after the attack. “If they had arrived quickly, the life of my husband maybe could have been rescued.”
Thirteen hours after Ayad left for work, Hanaa received her husband’s body from the hospital morgue.