Martyred Egyptians Kept Their Faith
“They kept their faith until the last moment. We are proud of them,” said the brother of one of the 21 Egyptian Christians who were killed by an IS-linked group in Libya.
On Sunday, February 15th, a group linked to the self-proclaimed Islamic State released a horrific video showing the beheading of 21 kidnapped Members of an ethnic religious group from North Africa but primarily Egypt, where they are the largest Christian denomination in the country. Christians in Libya. World Watch Monitor (WWM) reports that the video was titled, “A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross.” Video subtitles described the Egyptian Christians as “people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.” At the end of the five-minute propaganda video, one of the executioners declared his intentions to “conquer Rome,” an apparent threat against nearby Italy, which has recently deported a number of known Islamist militants.
The day the video was released, Egypt began seven days of national mourning, according to WWM. The following evening, Monday, February 16th, Egyptian Christians gathered in churches to pray for the families of the victims. In Upper Egypt’s Minya region, the area from which all the victims came, a large memorial service was held at a church.
WWM reported that the Coptic Orthodox Church issued its condolences in a statement to its fellow Egyptians: “…we believe the blood of those victims is crying before the Righteous Judge who does not forget or sleep, and will reward each one according to their deeds.”
Pope Francis declared, “The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. Their only words were, ‘Jesus, help me! It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.” They were killed, “only because they confessed Christ,” the Pope continued. “I ask that we encourage each other to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.”
Armed militants captured the 21 men, all day laborers from Samalout village in Upper Egypt’s rural, less economically developed Minya province, in two separate abductions on December 29th and January 3rd, reports WWM. The hostage-takers had checked the religious affiliation on their I.D. cards before taking the Christians hostage and letting the Muslims go free. Fr. Estafanous Shehata, the priest of Mar Marcos church in Samalout city, told WWM, “Our only comfort is that our martyrs are in heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ now; they were martyred while they were chanting the name of Jesus Christ. We ask condolences to their families and loved ones.”
“We had a hope that they would be released,” the brother of one of the victims said a day after the news broke of their killing. “But the will of God was for them to be martyrs of Christ, and that is better than life. They were martyred in the name of Jesus Christ. They kept the faith until the last moment. They didn’t deny the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are proud of them.”
One of the men, Luke Nagaty Anis, 27, never got to see his new daughter who was born while he was in Libya. His brother, Shenouda Nagaty Anis, told WWM it was a devastating shock when they heard the news. “My mother was faint, and our home was full of crying.” He described his pride in how Luke and also his cousin Essam, “kept their faith until the last moment.”
Thirteen men from Al-Our village were murdered in the execution. One resident, Beshir Estafanous Kamel, 31, lost two brothers. “Up until now, I cannot imagine that I won’t see them again. They were killed because they are Christians …they mentioned the name of Jesus Christ before being executed.”
Father Makar Issa, a priest from Al-Our village, described the screaming and wailing in the village as evidence of the “extreme sadness among all residents”. He called on President al-Sisi and other political leaders to “do their best” to bring the men’s bodies back to Egypt for burial, to help with the healing process. Speaking on national television, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi condemned the Islamic State (IS) executions as “an abhorrent act of terrorism.”
The Egyptian government has issued a gift of 100,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. $13,000) to the families of each of the executed men, with instructions that they should receive a package of free health care and education.
Many Christians from Minya have ignored their President’s earlier warnings to leave their expatriate work in Libya, because their families are dependent on the remittances they send back from work in industries, such as oil and gas. It is estimated that there are between 10-12 million Coptic Christians in Egypt, which is roughly 15% of the country’s population. There has been a large Coptic Christian population there for almost 2000 years.
Pray for the families of these fellow Christians who were executed, even as we give thanks for the testimony of their steadfast faith in Christ until the very end of life here on earth. According to El Watan news, these are the names of the 21 believers who died at the hands of IS in Libya:
1. Milad Makeen Zaki
2. Abanub Ayad Attiya
3. Majid Suleiman Shehata
4. Yousuf Shukri Yunan
5. Kirollos Shukri Fawzi
6. Bishoy Estefanus Kamel
7. Samuel Estefanus Kamel
8. Malak Ibrahim Sinyout
9. Tawadros Yousuf Tawadros
10. Girgis Milad Sinyout
11. Mina Fayez Aziz
12. Hani Abdelmessih Salib
13. Bishoy Adel Khalaf
14. Samuel Alham Wilson
15. Unnamed worker from Al-Our village
16. Ezzat Bishri Naseef
17. Lucas Nagaty
18. Gaber Munir Adly
19. Essam Baddar Samir
20. Malak Farag Abram
21. Sameh Salah Farouq
Thank You, Father, for the testimony of faith that these brothers of ours have left us. And thank You for the comfort that they are now rejoicing in Your presence, free of the sorrows of this world. We pray for Your comfort to surround their families and friends in the weeks and months to come. In the midst of sorrow, grant them courage to meet each day with the knowledge of Your presence. Protect their hearts from bitterness and draw them rather to Yourself for comfort and hope. We pray for an end to the reign of terror IS would inflict on the world and for the courage of Egyptians, indeed of us all, to place our trust in You alone. In the name of Christ and His kingdom whom we serve, Amen.