On this day, eight years ago, the world was stunned by one of the most poignant images of modern martyrdom. Islamic terrorists captured 21 men several months earlier in Libya and pressured them to renounce their faith in Christ and convert to Islam. The 21 refused to convert, and as a result, were brutally beheaded on a Mediterranean beach. These modern martyrs chose their faith over life and can be seen praying in the video footage until the moment their throats were slit.
Twenty of these martyrs were Coptic Christians who had gone to Libya in search of work to support their families. The twenty-first martyr was from Ghana. All were given the opportunity to convert to Islam to save their lives, yet each chose the love they had for Jesus above the love they had for their families and own lives. Reportedly, the Ghanaian captive on seeing the faith of his fellow Coptic Orthodox captives chose their faith and death over saving himself.
In a hauntingly similar situation, six more Coptic Christians working in Libya were kidnapped by Islamic terrorists over the past weekend. They are reportedly languishing in prison cells without food or water. All six Copts are from the village of al-Haraja, al-Balina district, Sohag governorate, and appear to be part of one extended family.
In an audio recording, the terrorists demanded a 90,000 dinar (nearly $20,000 USD) ransom payment for the release of the Christians. Their families are pleading with the Egyptian government for urgent help. They say they are willing to sell their own village homes to pay for the ransom—though their value would be a pittance of the necessary amount .
Based on precedent, the six Copts who were just abducted face the very real threat of murder. The 2015 slaughter in Sirte is only the tip of the iceberg of the jihadist rage against anything Christian in Libya. For example, seven other Copts were found brutally massacred near Benghazi in 2014. Other Copts were also found apparently randomly murdered. In 2013, 100 Copts were arrested, had their heads shaved, and were tortured, including by having their cross tattoos torn off their wrists.
While many associate martyrdom with the early Christian Church, there are more martyrs in our modern times than in any previous era. Copts continue to be persecuted by terrorist organizations such as ISIS as well as by the Egyptian government and the Egyptian society at large, for no other reason than their Christian faith.
As we honor the faith and legacy of these martyrs, Coptic Solidarity urges the US government and legislators to do everything possible to secure the release of these six Copts. Coptic Solidarity will continue to advocate and create awareness of the chronic persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt and the region to help them achieve equality and the ability to practice their faith fully without hindrance or fear of persecution.