SAT-7 COVERS DEDICATION FOR LIBYAN MARTYRS
Exactly three years after the beheading of 21 Christians on a Libyan beach horrified the world, a new Coptic Orthodox church in the Egyptian village of Al-Aour has been dedicated to their memory.
SAT-7 recorded the packed inauguration service at the new Church of the Martyrs of Faith and Homeland, which will broadcast on SAT-7 ARABIC today, 1 March.
Of the 21 Christian expatriate labourers executed by the so-called Islamic State, one was Ghanaian and the others Egyptian, thirteen of them coming from the Minya village of Al-Aour. Over 500 Coptic Christians travelled from across Minya governorate and crowded into the church for a dedication service led by Bishop Bevnotious.
The spacious building with a high tower in traditional Coptic Orthodox style was funded by the Egyptian government. In February 2015, President Al-Sisi had promised a new church to the 2,500 Christians in the 6,000-population village soon after news of the men’s execution had been released by their so-called Islamic State killers.
MARTYRS HONOURED BY BISHOP
In a service that mixed joy and tears, one of the most poignant moments occurred when Bishop Bevnotious anointed the altar, inscribed with the names of all 21 of the young Christian martyrs on its sides.
“Today we remember our martyrs who were killed in Libya three years ago,” the bishop said. “Knives were held to their throats to force them to deny their faith after forty days of being kidnapped, insulted, and threatened. But like the martyrs of every era in the history of our church, they held on to Christ. They are an example for us to hold on to our faith and to Christ regardless of circumstances.”
Photographs of the 21 were displayed in front of the church. The bishop reminded worshippers of the approximately 120 other Coptic Christians killed in terrorist attacks on Egyptian soil since December 2016.
FAMILIES THANKFUL TO GOD
The sister of slain labourer Malak Ibrahim expressed her joy at seeing the new church and knowing that her brother had maintained his faith in Christ to the end: “We are very happy. The church is beautiful. Thank God for it. I watched the video of my brother three days after it happened because I didn’t know before this that he had been martyred. The video was very difficult for us to see, but we thank God.”
The mother of Essam, another of the 21, said, “Thank God for this wonderful church. We couldn’t have wished for more. Yes, we are in pain, but God gives us great consolation.”
COMMUNITY JOYOUS AND CONSOLED
Nashwa Louis, the director of the SAT-7 crew who covered the event, said he had expected to find villagers “sad and grieving, but they were joyous and consoled. The church is magnificent and huge and it was filled with people. Even the area outside was crowded with Christians from the village. They were overjoyed so much that it felt like a celebration.”
The service will feature on the SAT-7 ARABIC program, Revisions, a series hosted by Maher Fayez – the same SAT-7 presenter who spoke to Beshir Kamel, brother of two other martyrs in a remarkable interview on 18 February three years ago. After speaking of his pride in the faith of his brothers, Bishoy and Samuel, Kamel prayed for their killers, saying: “Dear God, please open their eyes to be saved and to leave their ignorance and the wrong teachings they were taught.”
Launched in 1996, with its international headquarters in Cyprus, SAT-7 broadcasts Christian and educational satellite television to an audience of at least 21 million people in the Middle East and North Africa, tackling the most pressing and evolving development issues in the region. SAT-7 broadcasts in Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish languages on five channels.