By Alexander MacDonald and Stefan J. Bos
CAIRO/ROME (BosNewsLife)– Egypt’s embattled Coptic community on Monday, February 15, marked the one year since video surfaced of the murder of 21 Coptic Orthodox Christians on a beach in Libya. The men were marched in orange suits across the beach, forced to kneel and then were beheaded by Islamic State group
The Christians, who went to Libya as construction workers to support their families, were seen saying their last prayers. As the blade came to their neck they all cried in unison “Ya Rabbi Yasou’” or ‘O My Lord Jesus’, according to a video and Christian experts familiar with the situation.
The caption by the Islamic State group noted that “these insisted to remain in unbelief” and embrace Islam, BosNewsLife reported at the time.
Among those who died was a man from Chad, who converted to Christianity “because of the faith” he witnessed in the detained Coptic Christians, said priest Rafic Grieche, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt. “He found his faith when he saw the face of the other Egyptian Christians, he didn’t want to leave,” Grieche said. “He wanted to be a martyr like them.”
Coptic church leaders made clear they would never forget the images of the atrocity, while celebrating the memory of their martyrdom this week with prayer meetings, liturgies and reflections, culminating in a solemn liturgy.
The event is organized by the Coptic Orthodox diocese of Samalout in which most of the victims lived.
Pope Francis recalled that the 21 men refused to abandon their faith in Christ asking instead only for the help of Jesus in their final moments in this earth.
The leader of the world’s over 1 billion Catholics made clear it was a heroic testimony of faith. “They were killed simply for the fact they were Christians,” Pope Francis said, speaking in Spanish.
“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians!” he said at the time.
“Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.”
Pope Francis said that in remembering “these brothers and sisters” who were murdered for expressing their Christian faith, “Christians should encourage one another in the ecumenical goal.” There is, he said, an “ecumenism of blood.”
Coptic Catholic Bishop Anba Antonios Aziz Mina said that in the passion of the early Christian martyrs, “they entrusted themselves to Him who would receive them shortly thereafter. And so this is a celebration of their victory, a victory that no perpetrator can take from them.”
A new church is being built in the diocese to honour their memory.
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