In Selected Opinion

By Lord Alton of Liverpool – Independent Catholic News

Lord Alton gave the following reflection at the Coptic Commemorative Meeting today.

It is an honour to join you for this day of reflection as we commemorate again the martyrdom of the 21 saints who were brutally beheaded by Islamic State on February 15th, 2015…

When you asked me to talk today about the suffering of the Muslim Uighur people, I wondered how best to connect their plight with what happened on that beach in Libya.

There is the obvious link of suffering, the obvious link of persecution – both of which I will come to – but my starting point is a different one, it is the importance of solidarity: of standing in solidarity and common humanity with those who are persecuted.

A young West African, probably from Ghana, called Matthew Ayariga, is the personification and epitome of selfless solidarity.

Of the 21 who were murdered in Libya he was the one man who was not an Egyptian, not a Copt.

Some say that he wasn’t a Christian but, in seeing the bravery and extraordinary faith, of his Coptic compatriots he responded to the Jihadists, when they told him he would be freed if he rejected Jesus Christ, by saying that that “Their God is my God”.

An alternative report suggested that he may have come from a Christian background and said to his captors: “I am a Christian and I am like them”

It was so fitting that, in September 2020, Matthew’s mortal remains were taken to Egypt so that he could be buried, alongside those other remarkable men, in the church of the Martyrs of Faith bult in Al Our.

For me, the key point about Matthew Ayariga was that in a truly remarkable – supreme – act of solidarity he was willing to give his liberty and his life rather than walk away from his Coptic brothers.

What a contrast to our indifference to the persecution of 250 million Christians worldwide.

His act of extraordinary solidarity shames so many of us when we consider our tepid response – often based on political expediency, institutional considerations, or trade and business – to the persecution which is experienced by religious and ethnic groups the world over – discrimination that morphs into persecution; then persecution which morphs into crimes against humanity; and then ultimately into the crime above all crimes, genocide.


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