Christians unite to help grieved families whose only wish is to remain strong in their faith
When twenty Egyptian Coptic Christians and their Ghanaian coworker were murdered by ISIS in Libya earlier this year, a team of Christians from Focus on the Family Egypt visited the martyrs’ families and villages in the northern part of the country, where the men were from. Over the course of a couple of days, under the leadership of Sami Yacoub, the regional director for Focus on the Family’s Middle East outreach based in Egypt, they learned more about the men who lost their lives and were deeply moved by the faith of the loved ones left behind.
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, writes that the team was astonished at the reaction of family members and friends to the tragedy. He says all of them rejoiced in the men’s choice and prayed their children would forgive ISIS. They said they would all hope to make the same choice if faced with the same threat.
"A number of them shared how their pain soon gave way to joy. They spoke of a desire to share their faith with the ISIS extremists who committed the atrocious acts. They rejoiced that the martyrs were now home with Jesus Christ. Their only prayer request? ‘Please pray our faith remains strong.’ " wrote Daly on his blog, Daly Focus.
The martyrs, all in their twenties, had gone to Libya in search of work to attempt to provide for their impoverished families back in Egypt when they were kidnapped and beheaded because of their Christian faith. Because of their families’ immediate needs—particularly for safe housing—the Focus Middle East outreach decided to build and repair homes for them.
The effort has brought local communities together, and strengthened bonds between Christians. Local laborers were hired to help build the homes and the local Coptic Bishop has offered two buildings that will be turned into Vocational Training Centers. Families from around Samalout are bringing the workers food and drink while they work and the Focus teams continue to meet with the grieving families.
"It brings us great joy to get to see these houses go up as a sign of love and unity within the global Church. It’s amazing to see how God’s presence reigns sovereign even in the midst of a horrible tragedy, " said Daly.
The Focus Egypt team’s work is possible because of their existing partnership with the Coptic church in the area. According to Focus on the Family’s web site, its team in Egypt is committed to long-term ministry in the area and construction on the houses will continue for many more months. The final phase will include a Memorial Community Center in honor of the martyrs who refused to deny Christ.
Zoe Romanowsky is lifestyle editor and video content producer for Aleteia.