Today, on the sixth anniversary of the martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians at the hands of the Islamic State in Libya, news appeared that an Arabic-language film depicting their story is set to appear later this year in Egypt.
The film commemorates what happened six years ago today, on Feb. 15, 2015. Then, the Islamic State released a video depicting 21 Egyptian Christians being decapitated in Libya. While sitting atop and holding their victims’ bodies down, Islamic State members shoved their fingers in the Christians’ eye sockets, craned their heads back, and sliced away at their throats with knives.
[I]n that diabolic product of bloodthirsty play-acting and horror, some martyrs can clearly be seen to say at the moment of their barbarous execution ‘Lord, Jesus Christ!’ The name of Jesus was their last word. Like the passion of the early martyrs, they entrusted themselves to He, who moments later, would welcome them into his embrace. This was how they celebrated their victory, a victory of which no executioner could ever rob them. With that name, whispered at the very last, their martyrdom was sealed.
The news of the movie is being received with mixed emotions in Egypt: some Christians look forward to seeing the extolling of their coreligionists and their sacrifice, while others are not eager to be reminded of it; some Muslims also don’t wish to be reminded of it—seeing it as a stain on their religion—while other Muslims are only too happy and proud to be reminded of it, seeing it as a victory for their religion over “infidels.”
A few of the relatives of the martyrs were interviewed after watching the film’s trailer; they expressed approval of the movie, which apparently both extolls the heroism of their slain relatives and the Egyptian government’s response: on the day after the Islamic State video was released (Feb. 16, 2015), the Egyptian air force bombed and killed approximately 40-50 IS members in Libya.
It’s worth recalling that, at the time of their abduction and subsequent butchery, Western media were largely absent. Indeed, before the video appeared, the BBC had falsely reported that the majority of those now slaughtered Copts were “released.” (Such downplaying of Muslim persecution of Christians is not uncommon for the BBC.)
Two months later, when the Islamic State released another video in April, 2015, of 30 more Christians in Libya being massacred, a masked IS spokesman addressed “Christians everywhere”:
We say to Christians everywhere, the Islamic State will expand, with Allah’s permission. And it will reach you even if you are in fortified strongholds. So whoever enters Islam will have security…. But whoever refuses will see nothing from us but the edge of a spear. The men will be killed and the children will be enslaved, and their wealth will be taken as booty. This is the judgment of Allah and His Messenger.
The next scene portrays captive Ethiopian Christians being shot in the back of the head or having their heads carved off.
The new movie is set to complement a memorial (pictured above) for the 21 Coptic Christian martyrs that was inaugurated last February 15, 2020, on the five year anniversary of the tragedy. It consists of 21 kneeling statues, each fashioned after the appearance of one of the martyrs, with a large statue of Christ behind them, his arms open in an embrace of salvation. This memorial stands in the Egyptian village of Al Our, where many of the slain Coptic Christians came from.
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