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Church of the Martyrs Commemorates Anniversary, Ready to Receive Remains

02/15/18 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – As of today, the third anniversary of the mass beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS militants in Libya, the bodies of the martyrs have still not been returned to their families. The bodies were found in October 2017, and the families were hopeful that their burial would occur today in the Church of the Martyrs, which was built in their memory and includes a shrine meant to receive the remains. The delay has caused the church to postpone its official opening, although a commemoration mass was held today in the church.

At the time of the October announcement, Father Makar Issa told ICC, This church is now completed and it is ready to receive its martyred sons, the heroes who lifted the head of the Church and Christians all around the world.”

Malak Shokry Younan, the brother of the martyr Youssef, shared with ICC in October how the hearts of the families are “hungry to see the remains of our martyrs.”

Despite the disappointment of still waiting for the closure which comes with burial, Father Issa expressed how today’s temporary opening of the church “has gladdened the hearts of the martyrs’ families and has given them comfort.”

Father Philemon Atia, the uncle of the martyr Abanoub Ayad, remembered on today’s anniversary how “our 21 martyrs were truly brave. They were up to their mission. The 21 youths represent an example to the whole world. They were not chosen haphazardly. God has uniquely selected them, not only this but also their appearance (in October) carried God’s message to us and the whole world that He is alive, exists, and beholds everything so that we should never worry or be afraid.”

The father of the martyr Luka recalled how three years ago, “when I heard the news of the execution of my son, I was shocked and I couldn’t imagine. I was very sad… because it was really hard, it’s hard for anybody.” He is eager for the bodies to be returned to the families and the church officially inaugurated, so that his other “children can come to the church and they will all be honored together.”

Beshir Stefanos Kamel, whose two brothers were among those killed, said, “Many were astray and misleading the way, but there was no servant to reach them. Our 21 martyrs served them with their blood, and preached in places that no one is able to preach at… I want to say to them (the martyrs) that your arrival to your church (will be) a blessing to the whole congregation.”

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Today’s anniversary of the execution of the 21 Christians is a solemn occasion tinged with sadness that the bodies have not been returned home five months after their discovery. Even so, the temporary opening of the Church of the Martyrs offers the families some much needed happiness. We urge the authorities to bring full closure to the families by hastily bringing the bodies of the 21 home. The village and church are waiting. For too long already, the families have longed to give their loved ones a dignified burial. The return of the remains will help bring the families much needed closure from this tragic ordeal.”

For interviews with Claire Evans, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]