Samer was a joy and delight to his family. Tragically, on 26 July, he died from an illness he was born with. He was 11 years old. Just four days after the funeral, Samer’s parents were forced into doing the unthinkable – remove his coffin.
Samer (far right corner) with his father, Mark, and two of his brothers
It’s a rare, awful, unthinkable sight – parents having to remove the coffin of their child, just days after burying them. That’s exactly what one Christian couple from El-Kefah, Egypt, were recently forced to do.
Samer Nazeer was born with a medical condition and on 26 July, aged 11, he died. “Samer was always smiling,” his mother, Mary shares. “He was in a lot of pain and was sick, but for us he was our little angel.”
The family first discovered there was a problem when Samer’s father, Mark, went to register the death. “The official told me that I wouldn’t get my son’s death certificate until we removed him from his grave,” he relates. “As a Christian, he couldn’t be buried so close to a Muslim cemetery. I argued with them, as we had legally bought the land as a cemetery, but I went back home with empty hands.”
It is likely that Muslim villagers complained about the location of the new cemetery, despite paperwork confirming the acquisition of land by the local Christian community.
"The official told me that I wouldn’t get my son’s death certificate until we removed him from his grave." Mark
Back home, the police were waiting for Mark and arrested him for burying his son. “They did not take into account my circumstances and situation,” he explains. “They insulted me and dealt with me badly.”
Following a two-day court case, the judge sent Mark home with a small fine and an order to move his son’s body to a cemetery 100km away from their home.
Mark and his lawyer appealed the decision – an act that, remarkably, got Mark further into trouble. Whilst travelling home on a bus, Mark was pulled out and again arrested. Back in court, Mark was intimidated into withdrawing his appeal. He was told to call his family to tell them to remove Samer’s coffin immediately, otherwise they would not release him. Four days after his funeral, Samer was removed from his resting place.
“This really is the height of persecution,” Mark says.
"Me and my children have had nervous breakdowns and we cannot sleep well." Mary
The whole episode has been immensely traumatising for the family, including Samer’s three brothers. “I just cannot forget the view of my son’s body after we removed it from the cemetery,” Mary says. “Me and my children have had nervous breakdowns and we cannot sleep well.”
Alongside the unbearable hurt is an unspeakable sense of indignation. “Where are my son’s rights? How could they remove an innocent child from his grave?” Mary asks.
Samer’s parents want justice for their little boy, for those responsible for demanding the removal of his body to be held accountable. But mostly, they want their son’s body returned to his original burial place close to their home, so they can do what they need to do more than anything else – mourn the loss of their beloved son.