Th following editorial was penned by Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, the Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, and first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on February 15, 2016. The Bishop’s editorial follows a similar effort to draw the world’s attention to the genocide of Christians taking place in the Middle East, including the passage of a resolution at a recent Metropolis assembly and a publicity push that included editorials in some of the biggest newspapers throughout the Midwest.
Christians throughout the world will mark Monday, Feb. 15, as a day to remember the courage and religious fortitude of 21 Coptic Christians who were executed one year ago by Islamic State terrorists in Libya. The Coptic Orthodox Christian Church will be joined by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and other Christian denominations in observing the somber anniversary.
These Coptic Christian hostages were executed for no other reason than their faith in Jesus Christ. ISIS released a video of the barbarism with the title “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nations of the Cross.” Bloodshed in the Middle East has become all too common, and many Americans with busy lives may have become inured to the seemingly endless litany of atrocities, unaware of the extent of the genocidal campaign against the Christian minority in the Middle East.
This particular crime against humanity was a grotesque example of the violence Christians face daily in Libya, Iraq, Syria and anywhere that ISIS prosecutes its murderous campaign against anyone it deems an infidel. Yet as horrible as the episode was, it also offers inspiration and testimony to the power of faith.
The 21 men executed that day were itinerant tradesman working on a construction job. All were native Egyptians but one, a young African man whose identity is uncertain—reports of his name vary, and he was described as coming from Chad or Ghana. But the power of his example is unshakable. The executioners demanded that each hostage identify his religious allegiance. Given the opportunity to deny their faith, under threat of death, the Egyptians declared their faith in Jesus. Steadfast in their belief even in the face of evil, each was beheaded.
Their compatriot was not a Christian when captured, apparently, but when challenged by the terrorists to declare his faith, he reportedly replied: “Their God is my God.” In that moment, before his death, he became a Christian. The ISIS murderers seek to demoralize Christians with acts like the slaughter on a Libyan beach. Instead they stir our wonder at the courage and devotion inspired by God’s love.
While we remember these men’s extraordinary sacrifice, is there not more that we can do to stop this genocide against Christians in the Middle East?