The Corner

Twelve Things that Caught My Eye (Jan 3, 2018)

Happy New Year, a few days in. There’s something beautiful and intimidating, too, about the freshness of these days. (On this kind of note, I like this, from a friend from college days.)

1. First of all, something I could use your help on. A little tribute collection celebrating the life of Kate O’Beirne is in the works, highlighting some of the memorials we ran here and that appeared elsewhere. The idea behind it is to both celebrate her life and help encourage people that you can be a person of faith, with strong convictions, who helps people along the way, even in the most frequently polarized of political environments. There was a grace about her that is accessible to more than her. I think she’d like to know she continues to help people be more full of grace and courageous – something she excelled at in small and big things — and that’s what the intention is. So, if you have a Kate story/memory/tribute that you’d like to share, please send it to me at and I’ll share it with the appropriate people. Thank you.

2. A remarkable man died in recent days, JJ Hanson, who lived and died testifying to the precious gift that is life. He was diagnosed with brain cancer around the time Brittany Maynard became a People magazine celebration of assisted suicide. He chose to live until he couldn’t anymore. A mutual friend who recently saw him right before he went to hospice care at home said he was still in good spirits at Sloan-Kettering, insistent that his final days’ story be told as he testified throughout his life with cancer: He died in peace, with his family, ready to meet God. As Sister Constance Veit from the Little Sisters of the Poor put it at an NRI event some time ago: Where there is love, people feel love, and are at peace with what comes. That’s not to sugar coat anything, but mercy is in walking with one another from beginning to end and all times in between. We need more love, not outs from life when it gets most difficult. There’s more about JJ Hanson here and here and here. And information on helping his family here.

Relatedly, a piece in Public Discourse: Physicians Cannot Serve Both Death and Life

and Six Things You Need to Know about Physician-Assisted Suicide

3. Meanwhile, the Coptic Christians of Egypt continue to suffer brutal attacks. Most of the West seems not to notice. What Christian leaders from the Middle East tell me when asked: Spread the word – so that the response isn’t widespread indifference — and encourage prayer.

This just came into my inbox from Aid to the Church in Need



In Cairo, a Christmas season tinged with sorrow

MARIAN NABIL HABIB just observed the first anniversary of what she refers to as “the martyrdom of my father.” Nabil Habib was 48; he was among the 29 people who died Dec. 11, 2016, in a suicide attack subsequently claimed by ISIS. The targets were worshippers at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Coptic Church in Cairo, also known as El-Botroseya Church.

Marian, who is 15, tells her story, with some of the details of that dark day gleaned from the church’s security cameras:

“That day was a watershed in my life and the life of my family. I always feared that I would lose one of my family members and then it turned out to be my father, who was a good friend to me. I will never forget the details of that day.”

“We live in an apartment in the compound of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, where El-Botroseya Church is located. My father worked as a guard of the church. I celebrated my birthday two days before the attack and I exchanged laughs and jokes with my dad that day.”

“Then, the day before the attack, my father did not seem normal. He came back repeatedly to our apartment to check on my younger brother, Fadi, who is two years-old.”

“That Saturday evening, the suicide bomber had come to the church and asked dad about religious books, saying that he wanted to know more about Christianity; a deacon overheard the conversation and told the young man to come back the next morning at 10AM.”

“On Sunday morning, as soon as my father saw the young man he recognized him; the bomber was quickly making his way to the women’s pews, looking confused. My father got on the phone with my uncle to tell him about the man, but quickly ended the call to give chase. Next, the suicide bomber blew himself up.”

“Just a few minutes before the explosion, my father had asked me to go to our apartment and prepare a cup of tea for him. When I heard the explosion, I thought that the kettle had exploded. But soon there was thick smoke and bricks fell from the kitchen walls.”

“I rushed outside and found people running in all directions, screaming hysterically. There was a scene of complete destruction, but I still I did not know what had happened.”

“I asked about my father but nobody knew where he was. I continued looking for him; then, at the entrance of the church, I found my father lying on the ground and bleeding heavily from his head.”

“I took off my jacket for his head to rest on. There were wounds across his entire body; his hand looked shattered; my hair got wet with his blood.”

“He was still alive and, looking me in the eyes, he told me to take care of my younger sister and brother; and he gave me the keys to the church gate and to our apartment. I will always remember his smile right before he died.”

“Before all this happened I had worried for a long time that I would lose something precious. Losing my dad put me in a state of shock for more than a month and a psychiatrist visited me. Finally, it was God’s mercy, his consolation, which helped me recover.”

“I feel great comfort from God and I also got support from the Church, my friends, and many of people around us; there also has been great interest from people from other countries and international bodies that visit us to this day.”

“I do not feel scared now—but I still long for my father and my little brother needs his hugs; we miss him very much. I do not want to leave my country and the place where my father served and lived his whole life. All my memories of my father are here.”

“Despite the pain, my life has changed for better: I feel stronger than before and I care more about my studies than ever before—the future no longer frightens me. I have joined the church choir, which gives me inner peace, because it is one of the things that bring me closer to God.”

“My message to all those who suffer, and who might read my words: do not be afraid. God is great and I ask everyone to pray for all people facing violence and hatred; we must pray for peace around the world.”

Looking farther ahead, Marian says she wants to eventually study medicine—“because that was the dream of my dad.”

—Engy Magdy

4. More about first responders, closer to home for many of us: Soldier home for holidays died saving lives in Bronx inferno

5. Aleteia10 People who gave their lives for others in 2017.

6. Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, has a podcast conversation with Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, and Kelly Rosati, an adoption and foster-care leader here

I’ll be at the March for Life they talk about later this month, including hosting a small private lunch with some leaders on life and foster care and adoption as I’ve been doing via NRI for the last few years now, and speaking at the Evangelicals for Life conference and the March for Life Expo. A brand new National Review Pro-Life Reader (so new I don’t have my hands on it yet) should be waiting for you at the NRI table at  the expo, so be sure to stop by. Let me know if I’ll see you there ( 

7. Talk about good ways to begin the year:

By the way: I send out a weekly newsletter with links and things – it usually includes something from William F. Buckley Jr. on religion, culture, or civil society (an excerpt from a column, a link to a Firing Line video, etc.), and things I’ve written or want to include you in on or recommend. This year we plan some things on foster care and adoption at the National Review Institute, so if you want to stay in the loop on these and other things, subscribe (for free) here.

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