The widely publicised video of Islamic militants executing twenty-one Christians on a beach in Libya was a horrifying event that garnered global attention. All but one of the victims were Coptic Christians from Egypt. The militants, pledging loyalty to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS), wore black clothing, covered their faces, and beheaded the Christians on the beach. The jihadists explicitly identified the victims as “people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church”.
The twenty-one Christians, mainly from the same village in Upper Egypt and working in Libya, were captured in raids along the Libyan coast in the months leading up to the tragic incident. Despite ISIS claiming the massacre as a victory for Islam, the Christians’ families saw it as an opportunity for Christ’s eternal glory. When the video was released, it did not have the intended effect on many Muslims in Egypt, with some speaking out against it. Al-Azhar, a prominent Sunni university in Cairo, denounced the beheadings as “barbaric”, and observers noted that the Christian men were saying “Lord Jesus Christ” in Arabic as they knelt in the sand.
While grieving their lost loved ones, several family members of the victims expressed forgiveness and hope that the militants would come to know Jesus. Bebawy Alham, whose brother Samuel was among those killed, stated, “We forgive them, and we hope that they can come to know Jesus.” Mariam, the widow of Malak Ibrahim Sinyout, expressed pride that her husband stood firm in his faith and did not deny Jesus.