Coptic Christians

The White House and Catholic Pope speak up as Egyptian Coptic Christians are beheaded by Libyan-based ISIS militants.

The people of Egypt mourn, as 21 of its minority Coptic Christian nationals were killed in a gruesome beheading spree carried out by Libyan militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). In a 5-minute clip released Sunday by the extremists, 21 Coptic Christians were videoed being beheaded by knife-wielding militants on a beachfront. The ill-fated Copts were reportedly laborers who were kidnapped in Sirte, on Libya’s coast, back in December and January.

The video, with its authenticity confirmed by Egyptian authorities, has sparked a barrage of emotions, and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi launched air strikes against targets in Libya hours after convening an emergency session of the National Defense Council. The Egyptian president vowed to avenge the victims.

Egypt announced a 7-day mourning period for the Coptic Christian victims as public figures like American President Obama and Pope Francis condemned the ISIS actions. Referring to the act as “despicable and cowardly,” the Office of the Press Secretary offered condolences to the affected families and Nation of Egypt. The White House furthered, “ISIL’s barbarity knows no bounds.  It is unconstrained by faith, sect, or ethnicity.” “This heinous act once again underscores the urgent need for a political resolution to the conflict in Libya, the continuation of which only benefits terrorist groups, including ISIL.  We call on all Libyans to strongly reject this and all acts of terrorism and to unite in the face of this shared and growing threat,” the statement added.

Referring to the slain Egyptian Coptic Christian as “martyrs,” Pope Francis added his voice to those strongly condemning the killing. “The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out,” he said Monday to a delegation in Scotland. “If they are Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it is not important: They are Christians. The blood is the same: It is the blood which confesses Christ,” the Pontiff added.

Coptic Christians make up a greater proportion of the Christian denomination down in Egypt, with their numbers around 6 to 11 million members nationwide. Coptic Christianity is believed to have been founded around 50 A.D, and the sect split from the Catholic Church “over the divine nature of Jesus Christ” in 451 A.D. The Egyptian Copts, who hold their services in the Coptic language and sing hymns that are reminiscent of the early church, have faced persecution since its split from the Catholic Church. Coptic Christians claim they face discrimination and play a lesser part in Egyptian public life than their numbers justify.

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