Three years after the killing of 21 Egyptian Copts, the church was dedicated in presence of their families.
The images had traveled around the world: on February 15, 2015, 21 Coptic hostages in orange jumpsuits on a Libyan beach were murdered by Islamic State jihadists after having been abducted a few weeks earlier.
Three years later, this seed of martyrdom produced a lasting fruit: a large Coptic church, in homage to these martyrs “of the faith and the Fatherland,” was built in the village of Al Our, not far from the city of Samalut in Minya province. Thirteen of the 21 victims were from that region, 200 kilometers south of Cairo.
This past Thursday, February 15, the anniversary of the martyrdom of the 21 Copts, after months of construction, the new church called “of the faith” was dedicated in the presence of their families. Some of the country’s officials also attended, as well as local and religious authorities. The chosen date fell on the feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple in the Coptic calendar.
For all Egyptians, the martyrs’ innocent and accepted death has indeed elevated them to the rank of heroes. According to Bishop Kyrillos William Samaan, bishop of the largest Catholic Coptic diocese in the country, religious martyrdom represents “the highest degree” of holiness. These 21 Christians agreed to die rather than deny Christ. In 2015, by decision of Tawadros II, the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, their names were included in the book of martyrs of the Coptic Church.
They are national heroes too, since the Egyptian state decided to show its concern for the Copts by financing the construction of the church. According to Bishop Samaan, this dedication — the fifth in his diocese — is therefore highly symbolic. It constitutes the consecration of a “benevolent” promise from the Egyptian president who had “ordered” the construction of this church.
Thus, in addition to the recollection that this place of worship revives in the collective memory, it has become a symbol for hope and encourages Christians to persevere in their faith. “Even if it requires us to shed our blood,” added Bishop Samaan.