International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that families of the Copts killed by ISIS in Libya are preparing to place their deceased loved ones at the Church of the Martyrs of Libya in Aour village, Egypt, after they have received the bodies. According to ICC sources, neither the Egyptian nor the Libyan authorities have requested DNA samples from the families to confirm the identities of the martyrs. The families intend to personally verify the identities once they have received the bodies, after which the Church of the Martyrs of Libya will receive the Christians for burial.
Construction of the Church of the Martyrs of Libya began with the intention of memorializing the faith and courage of the 21 Coptic men who were brutally massacred by ISIS militants along the Libyan coast in February 2015. The militants buried the Christian men in a mass grave. Libyan authorities announced earlier this month that they discovered the grave’s location after arresting the militant responsible for filming the massacre.
Thirteen of the men killed were originally from Aour village. Father Makar Issa, a priest at The Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in the village, told ICC, “Our Lord chose the right time for the appearance and return of the remains of the martyrs after the completion of the building of the Church of the Martyrs of Libya to receive the blessed bodies of the martyrs to be placed at the new church in the village. This church is now completed and it is ready to receive its martyred sons, the heroes who lifted the head of the church and Christians all around the world.”
The brother of the two martyrs Bishoy and Samuel told ICC, “A great state of joy prevailed in our village [Aour] after the publication of pictures of the bodies. Our feelings are indescribable. They are mixed between crying and joy.”
According to the families, the bodies of the men are currently in a Libyan morgue where they are being prepared for the return to the families. Social media has been the primary source of information for the families throughout the process, and they have received only limited communication from the authorities on the progress of the investigation.
The families’ hearts are “hungry to see the remains of our martyrs,” according to Malak Shokry Younan, the brother of the martyr Youssef. The mother of the martyr Mina Fayez Aziz shared with ICC, “Before the news of finding the bodies of our martyrs, I was comforted and blessed. But now, after hearing the news of finding the bodies of the martyrs, I’m comforted more than before. I will be very happy when I see them and will visit them every day at the church. We pray that God complete their safe return to us.”
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “For over two years, the families of these Christians have had to wait at home with no opportunity for closure. Both the Libyan and Egyptian authorities must do everything possible to ensure that the bodies are returned to their loved ones and buried with dignity according to their Christian faith. At the same time, we must not forget that these victims were originally in Libya because of a lack of opportunity in Egypt for Christians. We pray that these families will experience healing from this tragedy and for the safety of those Egyptian Christians who continue to risk their lives for the sake of their families’ welfare.”