Originally published in The Gospel Herald
ISIS recently posted a video where members of the terror group beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on the shore of a beach in Libya. However, that video also showed the victims’ refusal to recant their faith and convert to Islam.
According to Stefan J Bos of BosNewsLife, the video showed some of the Christians making their last prayers. As they were about to be decapitated, they all cried in unison “Ya Rabbi Yasou,” which Christian experts have translated to “O my Lord Jesus.”
“In other words, they were given the option to convert or die and every one of them refused, even unto death,” terrorism expert and author Walid Shoebat said.
Shoebat, a self-declared former terrorist who converted from Islam to Christianity, added that the Christians uttered the phrase “to accept being martyred under the blade of the Muslim scimitar.”
Ivan Plis of the Daily Caller reported that ISIS captured the hostages in a series of attacks in December and January on the Libyan city of Sirte. He provided a short history of the victims’ background.
“The victims were Copts, members of Egypt’s ancient Christian church which traces its roots to the apostle Mark, centuries before Islam entered the country,” Plis wrote. “Today’s Coptic community constitutes about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, with a robust diaspora presence abroad.”
According to Leila Fadel of NPR, 13 of the executed men came from a small, poor Egyptian town called El-Auor, “a hamlet on the Nile River that is a mix of Christians and Muslims.” Malak Shoukry recognized his brother, Yousef, among the men in that video.
“I prayed for his soul,” Shoukry said. “I heard him calling, ‘Oh Jesus,’ as he was beheaded. I’m happy and I’m proud of him. He is a martyr for Christ.”
Fadel reported that one of the men, 19-year-old Abraham Bashr Aziz, managed to avoid getting kidnapped by ISIS. He saw the kidnapping of the men in Libya by ISIS militants last month.
“I heard it and I saw that from the window,” Aziz said. “I heard them screaming, and I heard them asking about the Christians. They just came to kidnap the Christians.”
Aziz described the ordeal to NPR in a trembling voice. According to Aziz, the armed men arrived in four vehicles and forcibly restrained and beat his friends and relatives while they looked for him; they had Aziz’s name on their list.
“I was so afraid,” he said.
However, Aziz told NPR that like other people in his village, he had no choice but to work in highly dangerous areas such as Libya in order to economically survive. The men who were executed by ISIS probably had similar reasons being in that country.
“I need to live,” Aziz said, describing the state of his town. “We’re not going for tourism; there is no work here. Look at this village.”
Pope Francis spoke about the executed Coptic Christians in his speech on Monday, which was addressed to the Church of Scotland.
“I read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians,” the pope said. “Their only words were: ‘Jesus, help me!’. They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians.”
He reaffirmed that the people executed by ISIS were unapologetic Christians, adding that it was “a testimony which cries out to be heard.”
“It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians!” Francis said. “Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.”
The pope added that “the martyrs belong to all Christians,” asking that everyone in the Christian faith should “pray for one another” and “continue to advance in the way of wisdom, good will, strength and peace.”