The recent brutal slaughterer of twenty-one poor Egyptian migrant workers, kidnapped by Muslim fanatics in the Libyan city of Sirte, shocked the civilised world and brought condemnation from religious and political leaders of all faiths. The actions of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant demonstrated a brutality and callous lack of compassion unseen on such a scale since the 13th & 14th centuries when the Mongol hordes came out of Asia in an orgy of violence and destruction.
Although these killers claim to be serving their religion, they actually manifest a nihilism which seeks to annihilate the most precious thing created by God, which is man. The Koran instructs Muslims to maintain justice even when dealing with their enemies.
“O you who believe, be maintainers of justice (and bearer of) witness for (the sake of) God. Let not hatred of a people incite you to act unjustly; be just—this is nearer to righteousness. And fear God surely God is aware of what you do.” (Surah al-Maida, 5:8)
In the obscene video footage of these atrocities, the victims are described as “people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian Church” as their murderers glorified in “chopping off the heads that had been carrying the cross delusion for a long time, filled with spite against Islam and Muslims.” This alleged hostility was eloquently summed up by His Grace Bishop Angaelos who told CNN, “We don’t forgive the act because the act is heinous. But we do forgive the killers from the depths of our hearts … otherwise, we would become consumed by anger and hatred. It becomes a spiral of violence that has no place in this world.”
The history of the Coptic Orthodox Church is rich with martyrs in every generation in the last two thousand years, but whilst mourning the loss and comforting the bereaved, she also celebrates with assurance the martyrs’ place with their Lord in Paradise. Within days of their murder His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Holy Synod declared that the murdered men had each received a martyr’s crown and they would be commemorated as such for ever by the church. An ikon of the new martyrs was painted by the talented young Coptic artist, Tony Rezk. Originally from Cairo, Tony studied Digital Arts at George Mason University and currently lives in Alexandria, Virginia. His ikon captured the prayerful response of Christians throughout the world and has earned well-deserved acclaim.
The new martyrs have been named as: