The 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded by Islamic State militants died as martyrs, calling the name of Jesus as their last words, said an Egyptian Catholic bishop. The 21 men were executed in a scene that is believed to be near Tripoli, in the same filming fashion as the other grotesque ISIS murder of hostages: Men in uniforms and face covers lead the detainees, clad in orange jumpsuits, where they kneeled in front of their captors. A man that appears to be a leader of the group says a few words before all 21 men are beheaded by the ISIS militant standing behind them.
The men are considered “Coptic” Christians because they are people living as Christians in areas in the Middle East, where it is dangerous for them to profess their Christian faith. Coptic Christians have the same beliefs as other Christians, but are a minority in their area and are in more imminent danger than other Christians.
Pope Francis denounced the horrific killings as he spoke Monday during an audience with a Scottish ecumenical delegation. He said, “They only said ‘Jesus help me…’ The blood of our Christian brothers is testimony that cries out. Be they Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it doesn’t matter: They’re Christian!”
In line with Pope Francis’ pronouncement at morning mass on Feb. 17, Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Giza told the Fides news agency that the “diabolical” video of the Christians’ massacre, intended to “spread terror,” was a testament to their martyrdom in the name of Christ.
The video that ISIS filmed of their beheading, released Feb. 15, shows that “in the moment of their barbaric execution,” some of the Christians were repeating the words “Lord, Jesus Christ,” he said. Bishop Mina asserted that they were exercising their belief that soon they would be with God.
“The name of Jesus was the last word on their lips. They entrusted themselves to the one who would receive them soon after. That name, whispered in the last moments, was like the seal of their martyrdom.”
Following the news of their assassination in Libya at the hands of the brutal Jihadists, Christians in the many dioceses of Egypt began praying and fasting, as the government called for seven days of national mourning. Several Egyptian bishops have spoken about constructing churches, dedicated to the 21 martyrs, in their dioceses, which is typical of Catholics who are to believed to have achieved sainthood, which martyrdom may make the executed Egyptians candidates for. Not only will churches be constructed, but the government has ruled that family members of the 21 men will receive monthly stipends.
Back in Libya, some members of the Catholic community resolved to stay put, despite the killings and the desperate calls from various authorities to evacuate the country, as the terror groups make it to unstable for Christians, who seem to be a target of ISIS.
“Few of us remain,” said Latin-rite Bishop Giovanni Martinelli of Tripoli, Libya. He said that many of those who remain are female Philippine nurses, who have decided to stay because of the ever-increasing medical needs in the city after the evacuation of the medical staff at the private St. James Hospital due to fear of airstrikes and barbaric acts of ISIS.
The Bishop said that no matter how dire the situation for himself, he will remain as well.
“It is for them that I remain. At this time, the situation is calm, but we do not know how things will evolve. Anyway, as I have said many times, so long as there is one Christian here, I will remain.”