Jacqueline Isaac, vice president of Roads of Success
– a humanitarian group – testified in a hearing held by the House Foreign Affairs Committee about a facet of the horrific beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian workers by Muslim militants on a beach in Libya last year. One of the men who were murdered by ISIS told his wife before departing for Libya, where he knew he faced danger, “If I don’t make it, teach my children, teach them the principles of Jesus Christ.” Isaac visited the families of 15 of the martyred Christians now living in Egypt. She brought testimony to Capitol Hill of the genocide being carried out by the Islamic State as it seeks to establish a caliphate in Syria.
Speaking at the May 13 hearing, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) asked Isaac about what she observed, asking, "If I could ask you, where is the faith of these young people?" Isaac responded, "Congressman Smith, I went to Egypt and I met the families, 15 of the 21 families that had victims that were slaughtered in Libya. I was astonished by their faith."
Isaac said, "As a fellow Christian, I thought, how would I be if I were in this situation today?" She recalled the answers she received from the Egyptian Christians she met. "Meeting the fathers that said to me, ‘Thank God that today [my sons] they are in Heaven. Thank God.’"
"A wife, talking to me about how her husband had said, ‘I am going to Libya and I will be in danger. But if I don’t make it, teach my children, teach them the principles of Jesus Christ,'" recounted Isaac.
“That is the story," she said. "These are the accounts of their faith. And I’ve seen it in Iraq across the board how Christians are standing strong and helping all, [and] helping the Yazidis."
"In fact, we had a case," said Isaac. "I remember there was a group of Yazidis that found a local [Christian] church and the church was providing care for them, providing a home for them. This is what they’re doing. They’re struggling but they’re giving everything they have. So, thank you.”
Marking the anniversary of the killings, which were disseminated by television and internet worldwide, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared on March 18, "My purpose here today is to assert in my judgment, (ISIS) is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims.”
Later this year, the British House of Commons voted unanimously to declare the actions by the Islamic State (which is also known as Daesh) as genocide, even despite the opposition of then Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party government.
Video of the murder became available on February 15, 2015. Men in orange jumpsuits were forced to their knees by masked militants wearing black from head to toe. Reportedly, the Christians were beheaded on a seaside beach near Tripoli. Authorities of the Coptic Church in Egypt later confirmed their deaths. The title of the video was intended as a warning to “the nation of the cross.”
"One profound result and gift of this horrific act is that it brought people together," said Bishop Amba Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church at a commemoration held this year at the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster, London. "These men paid the ultimate price, but gave us a cause to advocate for all those persecuted; they also showed us that there was a level of evil that we must all stand in solidarity against, and a level of courage, faithfulness and defiance that we must all aspire to," Angelos added.
The Christian Copts were abducted in a series of incidents in Libya throughout December 2014 and January 2015, before ISIS released the video showing their murder. The video was entitled, "A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross."
Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II officially registered the 21 martyred Christians in the Synaxarium: the book of the martyrs of the Coptic Church. Their eternal memory will be celebrated every year on February 15 by Coptic Christians.
At their commemoration this past April at Westminster, David Alton – a Catholic member of the House of Lords – said of the martyrdom, "It is especially important that we mark the anniversary of the brutal murder of the 21 Coptic Christians in Libya a year ago, not only to keep them in our memory but to remember and advocate for all those who continue to face persecution in the Middle East. What is happening to Christians and minorities in the region is nothing short of genocide and we must not stand by and watch as whole communities are eradicated."
Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin of the Anglican Church called on the world to not forget the example set by the twenty-one martyrs. "We remember them, we remember what happened to them, and we will forgive because we belong to God. I also hope that it is sending a message that we stand together," he said, according to Independent Catholic News.