Islamic militants abducted and shot and killed two more Egyptian Christians in the desert in Western Libya. Dozens of Christians remain trapped in Libya without a safe way to return home.
by Todd Daniels and ICC’s Egypt Representative
11/28/2015 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – After more than a week of waiting, Sabry Bakhit got the phone call he had been dreading. The bodies of his two brothers, Wasfy and Fahmy had been found. These two were the latest in a growing number of Egyptian Coptic Christians who have lost their lives at the hands of jihadist militants of ISIS (Islamic State) in Libya.
Abducted in Libya
Wasfy Bakhit Gad Mikhail, 37 years, married without children and his brother Sabry, 31 years old, married with one son, had left their families in Sohag and traveled to Libya two years ago to seek a living there because they were unable to find work in Egypt to provide for their families.
Their younger brother Fahmy, 27 years old, married without children, left his wife behind and also traveled to Libya one year and 6 months ago to join his two brothers.
The three brothers were living in a housing building with some of their relatives in the area of Abu Shaalh in Misrata, Libya. They, like many other Egyptians were working as construction laborers and when they could find work were able to make far more money than anything available in Upper Egypt.
“On Friday morning, November 6, my brother Wasfy received a call from a Libyan man asking him about putting a concrete roof on a building,” Sabry told International Christian Concern (ICC). He asked Wasfy to go with him to the building to give him a quote on the roof. “My brother then gave him our address and asked him to come to pick up him and take him to the workplace,” Sabry said. The man came as scheduled and took Wasfy and Fahmy with him to go check out the site, Sabry stayed behind at the house. That was the last he saw them alive.
“I waited for them all the day and night to come back but they didn’t return,” Sabry said. “I stayed up all the night and was very worried about them.” On Saturday morning, November 7, Sabry and two cousins started to canvas the hospitals and police stations in Misrata looking for them, but found nothing. They asked some Libyan friends to help in the search, but the two brothers were gone.
Bodies Discovered in the Libyan Desert
On Friday, November 13, the bodies of the two Coptic brothers were found in Wadi Kiam area near Al Khums, in Western Libya, about 40 miles outside of Misrata. The bodies were transferred to the hospital Zliten. After examining the bodies, the hospital determined that the two men were killed on Thursday, November 12, both by gunshots to the head.
“On Monday, November 16, a Libyan friend told us that two men were founded killed in Wasi Kiam area and their bodies are in the morgue of Zliten hospital,” Sabry said. He and his cousins Nasser and Ashraf went together to the morgue to see if the bodies were those of Wasfy and Fahmy.
“When we arrived to the hospital it was a very big shock for us when we saw the bodies,” Sabry said. “They were the bodies of my two brothers, both of them shot in the head. It was terrible,” Sabry recounted.
At the hospital we learned that when the bodies were brought to the hospital, there were black gloves in their hands with Islamic phrases on them. This part of Libya is known to have many Islamic militants there, especially those loyal to ISIS.
A Funeral in Egypt
Sabry and his cousins were able to arrange for the bodies to be transferred to Tripoli and then flown back from Libya to Egypt on Wednesday afternoon, November 25. The two bodies arrived at Burg Al-Arab in Alexandria on Wednesday afternoon and on Thursday were driven to Sohag in Upper Egypt, where they arrived at their village on Thursday morning.
The funeral service was held in Mar Girgis Coptic church in Awlad Ali village, Monshaa Center, in the southern province of Sohag. Bishop Marcurius, the Bishop of Girga, a number of priests and many others filled the church for a prayer service from 10:00 till 11:30, and then the bodies of the two martyrs were buried in the family’s cemetery in the village of Awlad Salama, Monshaa Center, Sohag Governorate.
“They Aren’t Dead But Have Been Saved By God In Heaven”
“They were targeted and killed because they are Christians. They kept the faith and refused to deny the Lord Jesus Christ,” Fr. Sulaiman Botros, priest of Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox Church in Awald Ali village told ICC. “They are our Church’s Martyrs. We are proud of them. They aren’t dead but have been saved by God in Heaven. They have entered into glory and there are in a better place than all of us. They’ve got their crown in heaven and they are with Jesus now, no more pain for them, only joy and peace,” he said.
The Coptic Church of Egypt is all too familiar with the cost of martyrdom, both inside and outside of Egypt. In this year, it has not only been Coptic Christians, but a host of Christians across the Middle East and North Africa have lost their lives at the hands of brutal Islamic jihadists, men who claim to be killing in service of their religion.
Our hearts should rightly turn to those who’ve been left behind. “We pray for their family to be strengthened by the power of The Holy Spirit and the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, May God comfort all of them,” Fr. Botros continued.
It is not only their families, but also their fellow Christians who remain in harms way.
Many Coptic Workers Are Still in Libya and Are Unable to Return Home
There are many Coptic are still in Misrata, Libya and are suffering there they cannot find any safe way to return home to their homeland.
“We are 16 Christians, living in a housing building in Misrata, Libya, We hope to return home to Egypt, but there isn’t any safe way to return,” Mina F., a Coptic worker in Misrata told ICC by phone. “None of us can travel to Egypt by the road because ISIS have controlled Sirte and they can take us captive during our trip by microbus. There isn’t any flight from Misrata to Egypt, the only flight is from Tripoli only and the way from Misrata to Tripoli is very hazardous also,” he continued.
“After the killing of the two Christian brother, we are afraid to go out to our work. and there is a situation of fear among all of us. Pray for us ”
Karim Fahmy, a relative of the two brothers told ICC, “There are more than 20 Coptic workers from our village and other villages nearby still in Libya. Some are living in the same housing building of the two martyrs in Misrata. They cannot return home to Egypt because there isn’t way to return back. The situation has become so dangerous for them especially after the killing of the two brothers,” he said. “The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has to intervene and find safe ways to return these Egyptians to their homeland.”
These latest deaths, which have largely gone unnoticed, are yet another reminder of the incredible risks that Christians in Egypt face. For two husbands who took a risk to try to provide for their families, it has now cost them their lives.
While the government must intervene to help them safely return to Egypt, we must also address the factor that led them to leave in the first place. It is not just poverty, but violence in Egypt, discrimination, and a lack of opportunity. All of these have been part of creating martyrs from the Coptic Church.
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