On February 15, social media accounts linked with the Islamic jihadists known as ISIS (also ISIL, or Islamic State) released a highly produced video showing the brutal execution of 21 Christians, 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians and one believed to be from Ghana, along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in northern Libya. Part of ICC’s recent trip to Egypt was spent meeting with the family members of the 21 martyrs. Testimonies like those above were echoed by all as we talked with one heartbroken family member after another. While the massive heartache from losing a son, husband or brother in the most horrific way was plainly evident, there was at the same time an incredible sense of peace in the air, and praise to God flowed from the lips and hearts of the families during our visit.
In the hours and days following the execution of the 21, help poured in from around the world. Churches were moved to respond, fundraising campaigns were launched and pledges were made by government leaders to care for the families of these men — for the very same widows and orphans we met with — to build churches in their honor.
While these efforts are part of a noble and needed response, they are only reactive to the much larger problems facing Christians in Egypt. It is not just poverty that forced these men to leave their homes, but the persecution (including job discrimination) that is rampant in their own country. In Egypt, Christians are not being murdered on highly produced films, but they are being gunned down in the streets. To prevent other martyrdoms like those of the 21, changes have to start in Egypt and must confront the hostilities directed at “the nation of the cross.”