It was the worst possible nightmare. After having spent time in the warm, friendly, scenic, and ultra-affordable Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el Sheikh, 221 Russians and 3 Ukrainians were en route back to St. Petersburg on Kogalymavia Flight 9268 . Twenty-minutes after take-off, American satellites picked up a bright flash from the plane. Contact was lost and then Flight 9268 crashed to the ground, killing all on board. Though it is still too early to determine the actual cause of the crash, UK, Russia and others are convinced it was a bomb planted in the hold. Russia stopped flights to Egypt and Britain repatriated its nationals without their hold luggage.
Sharm el Sheikh is an amazing resort on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. It is where the Gulf of Aqaba meets the Red Sea. The weather is usually warm, the sea waters are enticingly blue, the coral and diving opportunities are limitless, and you can get 5 star facilities and service for 1 star prices. I could imagine the Queen of Sheba enjoying similar scenery as she made the long journey to inquire of King Solomon in Jerusalem.
As it turned out, I was scheduled to visit Sharm el Sheikh 3 weeks later for rest and recreation. In light of this situation, should I proceed to Sharm or cancel? National governments were warning their citizens about going to the seaside resort and even the Australian government advised citizens to ‘reconsider’ their need to travel to Egypt as a whole.
I decided to proceed, not out of stubbornness or rebellion. Here’s why:
LOCAL INFORMATION: Government advisory services are a good thing, but they cannot replicate the information which is provided by locals. I have learned in travel that local information trumps international every time. The locals said that everything at Sharm el Sheikh that it was ‘business as usual’ and if the situation changed, they would let me know. They were right.
TERRORISM: This dreadful phenomena has been rearing its ugly head at a global level for years now. While it presents a dangerous challenge, we must remember that global terrorism itself is not currently an existential threat to the Western World. They can cause damage, like with September 11th, but they cannot bring down governments. If the West declines or is damaged, it will be from inward corruption, not external treats.
Often, terrorist are magnified more than they deserve as if they are omnipotent and omnipresent - which is nonsense. Their biggest product is the manufacturing of fear and to manipulate people and governments through it. Knee-jerk reactions to terrorist acts plays right into their hands.
While it is understandable why Russia, Britain, and Germany took immediate action to stop flights to Egypt, the fact is that the terrorists were gloating at their ability to railroad major nations while trying to damage the Egyptian economy. This is so even if they had nothing to do with the event; and they are reaping millions of dollars of free publicity in the process. Even if they succeed in doing a major act of terror, the likelihood of replicating that act in the immediate aftermath is usually low.
Perhaps we can take a note at the Israelis: their philosophy is that one of the ways to defeat terrorism is to rebuild and get on with life. In 2001, the Sbarro Restaurant at the strategic intersection of Jaffa Road and King George in downtown Jerusalem was bombed and several people were killed, including a teenager from Melbourne. The response? The restaurant was quickly rebuilt and open for business, as if nothing happened. By getting on with the business of life, you are showing courage and fortitude that will defeat every foe.
SOLIDARITY WITH EGYPTIAN PEOPLE: Next to the Russian/Ukrainian victims of the airline crash, the Egyptian people have suffered the most from this event. To know the Egyptians is to love them - they are warm, hospitable, gregarios, and very welcoming. They also love to laugh. They have ridden on one wild roller coaster ride, with the 2011 Revolution, the rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, unstable neighbours in an unstable region, economic distress with low wages and high prices, and an insurgency in northern Sinai. Tourism is a major source of income for this nation of 89 million so as true friends, we should support and visit them, not ‘cut and run.’
SPIRITUALITY: If you are a person of faith and have been led by God to take a course of action, then follow it through no matter what. ‘We walk by faith, not by sight’ (II Corinthians 5:7). Believing that the LORD directed my steps to go to Egypt, with His peace in the heart, we must not be dismayed by adverse circumstance. People who are chronically ‘risk adverse,’ always wanting to play it safe, will live the most claustrophobic, mediocre and unfulfilled life. Full stop.
RESULTS: The week I spent in Sharm el Sheikh and Egypt was nothing short of wonderful. The people were so grateful to see me, I had smiles, even hugs, wherever I went, enjoyed snorkelling in the Red Sea, which was comparable to the Great Barrier Reef which I visited 3 months earlier. Indeed, in Sharm and Cairo, I had such a great time and made so many friends, I hated to leave and can’t wait to get back!
As we face challenging times, remember that the steps of a good man are ordered of the LORD (Psalm 37:23). Proceed as planned and you can’t go wrong.