Remembering the 21 Martyred Christians

By Raymond Ibrahim Published on February 15, 2023

Today marks the eight-year anniversary of a particularly horrific butchery of 21 Christians. On Feb. 15, 2015 in Libya, the Islamic State released a video depicting 21 Christians being decapitated. While sitting atop and holding their tied 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.

Some of the Christians could be seen mouthing, “Oh, Lord Jesus Christ,” in the seconds before having their heads carved off.

To commemorate their martyrdom, Coptic Solidarity issued a press release today summarizing what happened:

On this day, eight years ago, the world was stunned by one of the most poignant images of modern martyrdom. Islamic terrorists captured 21 men several months earlier in Libya and pressured them to renounce their faith in Christ and convert to Islam. The 21 refused to convert, and as a result, were brutally beheaded on a Mediterranean beach.

These modern martyrs chose their faith over life and can be seen praying in the video footage until the moment their throats were slit. Twenty of these martyrs were Coptic Christians who had gone to Libya in search of work to support their families. The twenty-first martyr was from Ghana.

All were given the opportunity to convert to Islam to save their lives, yet each chose the love they had for Jesus above the love they had for their families and own lives. Reportedly, the Ghanaian captive on seeing the faith of his fellow Coptic Orthodox captives chose their faith and death over saving himself.

The Persecution Continues, but We Don’t Often Hear About it From Mainstream Media

Two important points arise when reflecting on these 21 martyrs: Muslims everywhere are still persecuting and slaughtering Christians for their faith, and the Western establishment is doing everything in its power — which is considerable — to conceal this fact.

On the first point, consider this: in July 2011, I began to compile a monthly “Muslim Persecution of Christians” report, (published by the Gatestone Institute). Every one of these now 137 reports typically feature the bombing, burning or banning of churches; the rape and forced conversion of Christian women; murderous attacks on and long prison sentences for so-called apostates and blasphemers; generic but institutionalized discrimination and exploitation; and, of course, the outright slaughter of Christians.

Here, for example, is a very short sampling of the most recent (and currently unpublished) report, covering January, 2023:

A Sampling of My January 2023 “Muslim Persecution of Christians” Report

  • Democratic Republic of Congo: On Sunday, Jan. 15, Muslims bombed a Pentecostal church during a baptism: at least 14 Christians were blown to pieces and 63 wounded.
  • Nigeria: During various attacks, Muslims slaughtered approximately 60 Christians, raided churches, and kidnapped women and children (based on several January reports: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here).
  • Uganda: On Jan. 2, a group of Muslims slaughtered a Christian man, after 13 Muslims converted to Christianity following a theological debate (In December, Muslims sprayed a Christian pastor’s face with acid, causing him to lose most of his vision, and, in a separate incident, forced poison down the throats of another pastor and a Christian couple, recent converts from Islam.)
  • Spain: On Jan. 25, a Muslim migrant screaming “Allahu akbarstabbed a Christian sacristan to death and seriously wounded a priest.
  • Burkina Faso: On Jan. 2, gunmen assassinated a Catholic priest in the Muslim majority nation.
  • Pakistan: On Jan. 11, Muslims murdered a poor, struggling Christian farmer, for having the temerity to confront them about trespassing on his farm and stealing his crops.
  • Sudan: On Jan. 23, Muslims shot dead Ibrahim Kandr, a Sudanese-American pastor and four other Christians.
  • Israel: A group of Palestinian “youth” hurled stones at two churches in Jaffa, and beat and pepper-sprayed the elderly Coptic priest of one of the churches.

It’s Not Just Professional “Terrorists” Who Persecute Christians

These are just some of the accounts to arise in one month, January 2023. More than a decade’s worth of such reports, totaling for between one and two thousand such incidents, gives the lie to the widespread notion that it is only professional “terrorists” of the Islamic State’s ilk that persecute Christians. To be sure, what “ISIS” put Christians and other religious minorities through was horrific; but before and after ISIS, Christians experienced and continue to experience less “spectacular” forms of persecution at the hands of Muslims who are not “formal” terrorists, including Muslim individuals, mobs, clerics, and of course Muslim authorities at every level of state (police, local governors, judges, etc.).

Which brings us back to the martyrdom of the 21 — and the role of the malfeasant media. Most of the stories listed above, and the dozens like them that surface each and every month — all of which habitually receive very little if any reporting by the so-called mainstream media. The only reason the 21 martyrs received some coverage at all is because their execution was so “spectacular” and theatrical. As such, it could be dismissed by all the media talking heads as perpetrated by “terrorists” who have “nothing to do with Islam,” an otherwise “peaceful religion” which they had hijacked for their own nefarious agenda.

Harambe Got 6 Times More Media Coverage Than the Killing of 21 Christians Did

This is not to say that the media is exactly open to reporting on such stories, which, nonetheless, still posit Islam in a negative light (at least among those whose common sense has not been wholly subverted). They just need to cover their backs lest their agenda become too obvious. Thus, if the media reported on the 21 martyrs, they also spent six times more coverage obsessing over the killing of a Harambe, the gorilla.

Got that? Carving off the heads of 21 Christians because they refused to recant their faith is six times less important for the media and establishment than the inadvertent killing of an animal (one not even on the endangered species list).

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This may also explain why those who did hear about the slain 21 never heard about what happened two months later in Libya: the Islamic State released another video of their members butchering 30 more Christians, Ethiopians.

But the mainstream media are not merely guilty of ignoring the widespread specter of Muslims persecuting Christians. They sometimes actually cover for it. For example, before the Feb. 15, 2015 video of the 21 martyrs appeared, the BBC had falsely reported that the majority of those now slaughtered Copts were “released.”

Banned, Censored and Ignored

Same with social media. Facebook regularly shadow bans my articles on Muslims persecuting Christians and once openly banned me for writing about — you guessed it — the 21. Similarly, YouTube censored my PragerU video, “The World’s Most Persecuted Minority: Christians,” and also once banned me for uploading and sharing a video of Islamic State members destroying crosses and desecrating churches in Syria and Iraq — even though that video was not “graphic” (it depicted buildings and crosses, inanimate objects) — not to mention the fact that I had come across it on an Arabic language YouTube account.

In short, while the media may name the terrorist groups responsible for especially spectacular attacks — ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, etc. — few acknowledge, and many actively suppress, the fact that Muslims in general regularly engage in acts of violence and intolerance against Christians all around the world. Indeed, Muslims — of all races, nationalities, languages, and socio-political and economic circumstances, hardly just “terror groups” — are responsible for some 80% of the global persecution some 360 million Christians experience, which is at an all-time high, certainly higher than it was in 2015.

It is enough to point out that, although today commemorates the martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya, only three days ago six more Copts were abducted in Libya, where they are being tortured and held for an exorbitant ransom — not, of course, that any Western media has reported it.

Note: If you wish to receive my monthly “Muslim Persecution of Christians” report, subscribe to my website or the Gatestone Institute’s.


Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West and Sword and Scimitar is the Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and the Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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