Christianity in Death and Life

By Kathryn Jean Lopez Published on February 23, 2015

Twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians were slaughtered on a beach in Libya. And even in his mourning, the brother of two of them gave thanks.

Beshir Kamel, brother of Bishoy, who was 25, and Samuel, who was 23, thanked their executioners, Islamic State terrorists, for not editing out the name of their savior when disseminating their execution videos. While appearing on an Arabic Christian television station, Kamel said that the families of the men — laborers, 13 of them hailing from the same impoverished village, who were working in Libya to support their families at home — were congratulating one another.

“We are proud to have this number of people from our village who have become martyrs,” he explained. Who would have an ounce of gratitude at such a moment? Someone who has hope, hope of something real and eternal.

Kamel said, “Since the Roman times, we as Christians have been targeted to be martyred. This only helps us to endure such crises because the Bible told us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us.”

In his response to the news from Libya, Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, explained: “While it may seem illogical or incomprehensible, we also pray for those who have carried out these horrific crimes, that the value of God’s creation and human life may become more evident to them, and in this realization, that the wider effects of pain brought by this and other acts of brutality may be realized and avoided.”

Here is a lesson in what it is to be truly Christian, which often seems the stuff of legend to us today. Faith is more than a comforting bromide or a mere setting for life’s rites of passage — births, weddings and funerals — it’s a demanding and radical way of living in the world, one that flies in the face of a secular society that is obsessed with power, blinded by greed and bedeviled by violence. Besides fundamental matters of human rights and freedom, this is why Christianity matters; this is why it’s so urgent that followers of that faith not be eradicated from the birthplace of their religion.

Pope Francis emphasized this as he celebrated morning Mass in honor of the slain Coptics: “They were killed simply for the fact they were Christians.”

The Christianity of the people who were martyred for their faith is “the most important aspect of the story,” according to Samuel Tadros, author of a book on Christians in Egypt, Motherland Lost, and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. “ISIS gunmen chose these men from among other Egyptians living there because they were Copts,” he said. “This was no random choice. ISIS holds deep hostility, to say the least, towards Middle Eastern Christians. Its goal is quite simply the eradication of their existence.”

The evil imparted on Milad Makeen Zaky, Abanub Ayad Atiya, Maged Solaiman Shehata, Yusuf Shukry Yunan, Kirollos Shokry Fawzy, Bishoy Astafanus Kamel, Somaily Astafanus Kamel, Malak Ibrahim Sinweet, Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros, Girgis Milad Sinweet, Mina Fayez Aziz, Hany Abdelmesih Salib, Bishoy Adel Khalaf, Samuel Alham Wilson, Ezat Bishri Naseef, Loqa Nagaty, Gaber Munir Adly, Esam Badir Samir Malak Farag Abram, Sameh Salah Faruq, and one other worker from Awr village in Egypt is the most important news story of the pre-Oscars week, on a day that included an NBA All-Star game and SNL 40th anniversary show.

Would if we could pay it as near as much attention as the latter events. God have mercy on us if we don’t.


Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at [email protected].


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