Late last year 21 Coptic Christian men were kidnapped from an apartment complex in Sirte, Libya. These men were the breadwinners for their various families whose purpose in Libya was to earn what income they could to send back to their families in Egypt.
They were beheaded on a beach front in Tripoli, Libya. The reason was claimed as retaliation for the controversial intervention of the Coptic Orthodox Church into the conversion of two women to Islam. The event was professionally filmed and edited as a propaganda video for Isis. However, the atrocity was actually accomplished by the “Soldiers of the Caliph”, a Libyan group loyal to ISIS. It was ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) who released the video.
Who are the Coptic Christians? The simplest definition of Coptic is “Egyptian”. The Coptic Orthodox Church traces its heritage to the Apostle Mark and a traditionally accepted missionary journey he made into Alexandria not long after Christ ascended. Here are two links to help if you would like to research their history.
My purpose is not to explore the group’s past but to understand their current situation. So for my purpose, it will suffice to say they are more like Roman Catholics – they have had their own Popes, 17 to be exact – than they are like Protestants. However, they are considered the most Biblically based arm of Orthodoxy. (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/juneweb-only/who-are-copts.html?start=2)
A Coptic Christian almost never converts to Islam. There are multiplied videos of them on the internet taking to the streets to demonstrate for their faith. They stand publicly for their faith in a land that is 90% Islamic. They have been persecuted for centuries. They have lost property, have almost no rights, and have been martyred frequently.
Their stand for their faith is fearless and they have paid a heavy price to follow Christ. Their grief is real and continues.
Currently Coptic Christians in Libya have been trapped. They face the fear of death from the dangers of traveling in Libya in general, as ISIS maintains an ongoing mandate to murder Coptic Christians. They also lack the financial means to escape.
We must embrace these Christians as our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
My concern and reason for broaching this subject regards the anger emanating from the Christian Community. I would never condemn anger as an outlet for the grief caused by this horrible situation. I am however concerned when the Christian community calls for blood. I am even more distressed when we turn our head in feigned ignorance because we are afraid of Islam.
Currently, Western Christians are traveling to the middle east and joining militias to assist in the fighting. Although, I commend their bravery and the desire to protect the innocent, I could never condone sending even an Islamic Militant to hell for his crimes. Many would argue that they deserve such treatment for their crimes, I would argue that we all do.
Yet, When we hide here in our relative safety of the United States and ignore the problem, hoping it will go away, well, that just is not an option either.
I would also like to add that I do not appreciate all of the guilt being heaped upon western Christians. We are being accused of cowardice, apathy, and cruel negligence. Although, I understand the cause for such accusations, I believe them to be unfair.
I believe Western Christians are simply paralyzed by uncertainty and overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges Christians are facing throughout the world. Religious Freedom in the West has eroded significantly in the last few decades and that decay has greatly accelerated recently. I believe Christians in the West know that persecution is not far from our own situation and frankly, we just don’t know what to do. Without the confidence of a clear course of action, we are incapacitated.
What’s a Christian to Do?
I would like to encourage believers in the West to take three courses of action:
First Believe in Jesus Christ.
Twenty-One Coptic Christians laid down their lives with the words on their lips, “Ya Rabbi Yasou’” (O My Lord Jesus). When these men were called to make the ultimate sacrifice in this life, their faith and strength rested in Jesus Christ. I believe they were strengthened by God to give their lives. Another way to state it is that God gave them the Grace required for the situation. I do believe there is a martyr’s Grace. There are just too many believers through the centuries who have manifested it prior to their deaths.
The Scriptures declare… Hebrews 4:16 ESV Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Paul declares to Timothy 2 Timothy 2:1 NIV You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The lesson we should glean from these passages today is simply that no believer need fear a martyr’s death. There will be God’s Grace enough to meet any demand.
Second, Pray for the Persecuted.
We must pray for the persecuted. We must pray for their Faith and their relief.
Jesus prayed for Simon just before he entered into his temptation Luke 22:31-32 ESV “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” We are instructed to pray for those who are suffering for Christ. Hebrews 13:3 NLT Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.
We need to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters before we take any other action. When we discount prayer we discount God’s power and purpose in the situation. We must pray. And, we must stop wasting time wallowing in guilt because we haven’t prayed. When we take to our knees, confess our shortcomings and declare the power and sovereignty of God in the circumstances with prayer, we join their spirits, we stand with them, and we encourage them. I do not know if you can identify with the experience of prayers being offered on your behalf, but if you have then you are well aware of its power.
Third, Help the Persecuted
We must also do what we can to support, help, and even deliver them. In Acts 11:28-30 and in 2 Corinthians 8 we encounter moments in Scripture were Christians in one region supported those in another region. In Matthew 10:23 Jesus tells us persecution is inevitable and to flee persecution if we can. In short, we can help. We can meet basic needs. We can stay informed. We can support organizations that are actively rescuing and assisting those refugees from persecuted lands. And, we could go and help. Granted that last one is dangerous, but if there are those struggling with not taking serious action then that is the action to take, go help the Christians suffering rather than going to war with those who are causing the suffering.
Islam will not be defeated with the blood of militants but with the Blood of Jesus Christ and the Love of God the Father for them. We are not called to kill Muslims, and never will be. We are called to lay down our lives for them. We can do that now by laying down what resources we can. But, be sure, if the day comes that we must lay down our very lives, then we will do it with the Grace God provides and with the full attention of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Acts 7:56)
(Disclaimer: For those Christians in the Armed Services who are called upon by their Governments to fight the Islamic State, I believe you have moved into another realm of Scripture in that you are “rendering unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s” Matt 22:21. You are also under the compulsion of authority, Romans 13:1-7, and are not acting as an individual but as the arm of a Government. Accepting and acting upon the order of a Government, especially when their intent is to protect the innocent, even if that intent is incidental, is the right thing to do. Also, please note that my opinions regarding what Governments should do are beyond the scope this article’s purpose.)
Links of interest:
www.rescuechristians.org (not condoning this site but they are taking aggressive action)
Please do your own due diligence to make sure the cause you choose to support reflects your faith and values