Atrocities carried out by the Islamic state terrorists reached a new level of barbarity with the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya last week in retaliation for the killing of Osama bin Laden. The victims had been singled out as Christians last December and held captive until the seaside executions.
“They were murdered just for the fact they were Christians,” Pope Francis said. Adding, “The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out ….If they are Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it is not important: They are Christians. The blood is the same: It is the blood which confesses Christ.”
It is ironic that the perpetrators of the massacre referred to the Coptic Christians as crusaders. Coptic Christians are among the earliest Christian communities and have always been centered in Egypt and were in no sense part of the crusades from Europe.
Copts, along with many other Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Christians whose roots date to Apostolic times have been suffering persecution, oppression and martyrdom throughout the Middle East and Asia and have been driven out of cities, like Mosul, that had been centers of Christian culture for nearly two thousand years.
Speaking to a group from the Church of Scotland, Pope Francis said that in remembering “these brothers who have been killed simply for confessing Christ,” Christians should encourage one another in the ecumenical goal, noting the “ecumenism of blood” in recalling that “The martyrs are from all the Christians.”
This is not a time for vengeance or retaliation that is contrary to the teaching of Jesus, and only escalates violence. Rather, it is a time for prayerful reflection on the sacrifice of these Coptic brothers who, as the Holy Father noted, only said “Jesus help me.”
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