“They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated, the world was not worthy of them.” (Heb. 11:37–38)
This is a very sad time in Egypt. We are in seven days of official mourning for the 21 young Christian men who were brutally slaughtered by ISIS in Libya on Sunday. The gruesome, professionally produced video of that execution shocked the country and has united Christians and Muslims as never before. As soon as the video was broadcast on Sunday evening, the president delivered a speech declaring seven days of mourning for the nation. Shortly afterward, the Egyptian Air Force bombed ISIS targets in Libya.
As I arrived at the Bible Society office the next morning, feeling sad and depressed, I met a young coworker who told me she was “very encouraged.” I couldn’t imagine what on earth could encourage her! She explained:
I am encouraged, because now I know that what we’ve been taught in history books about Egyptian Christians being martyred for their faith isn’t just history but that there are Christians today who are brave enough to face death rather than deny their Lord! When I saw those young men praying as they were being prepared for execution, and then many of them shouting “O Lord Jesus” as their throats were being slit, I realized the gospel can still help us to hold onto the promises of God even when facing death.
This same sentiment is being reflected in different ways by people who watched that gruesome video.
I don’t think I’ll ever read Hebrews 11 again without seeing in my mind images of these men dressed in orange jumpsuits with black-clad, masked executors behind each one of them.
As many of you know, these men were simple, Egyptian laborers who had gone to Libya to make a living. They were captured and executed by ISIS for being—as the video caption charges—“People of the Cross.” Egyptians have been shocked by this news, and it is the most talked about event in our country at this time.
The purpose of the video was to foment sectarian strife in Egypt between Christians and Muslims. Those Islamic extremists clearly intended to provoke the 10 million Christians in Egypt to rise up violently against their Muslim neighbors. But the loving and caring response of Muslims all over the nation softened the blow that many Christians felt. Until now the Christians of Egypt have responded with restraint, sorrowfully calling out to God.
The president and dozens of political leaders gave their personal condolences to the Coptic pope. The prime minister traveled to the small village where most of these men come from, and sat on the floor with their poor relatives to express his concern. All of this sends a clear message that Christians are considered an integral part of the fabric of Egyptian society.
- Pray for comfort for the families of the victims.
- Pray for effective mass distribution of a Scripture tract we’ve just produced (see image), that God’s Word will comfort and challenge the many who will receive it.
- As I write, there is news of more Egyptians being kidnapped in Libya. Lord, have mercy!
Please pray for Egypt as we pass through this painful period.