Islamic State terrorists in Libya apparently killed 28 Ethiopian Christians, describing them as representatives of the “enemy Ethiopian Church,” in a new massacre.
A video that showed the beheading of 12 men and the shooting of 16 others was released on April 19. The beheadings occurred on a beach, while the 16 men were shot in the head in what appeared to be a desert location. The killings were grotesquely similar to the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in another video made public in February.
In the new video, a spokesman for the Islamic State said that the victims were “followers of the cross,” representing “the nation of the cross.” The video also showed images of the destruction of Christian churches and cemeteries, and included a warning for Christians to convert to Islam or face a similar fate.
A spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church, Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Guizeh, told the Fides news service that the timing of the video’s release suggests that Islamic State leaders are very conscious of relations among the Christian churches in the Middle East. Patriarch Mathias I, the leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, had been scheduled to meet with the Coptic Orthodox leader, Pope Tawadros II. (That meeting was cancelled in the wake of the killings, as the Ethiopian prelate chose to remain with his grieving people.) In the February video, the Islamic State had identified the Coptic Church as its enemy in Libya.
In both massacres, the victims were migrant workers—first from Egypt, then from Ethiopia—who had been living in Libya. Christians living in Libya have been in danger since the Islamic State established a powerful presence there, after the collapse of the Qaddafi regime.
“The chain of martyrs has not finished,” Bishop Mina observed. The Church has never complained of martyrdom, but has always celebrated martyrs as those in whom, while they are being killed, the great and consoling victory of Christ shines.”
Ethiopian Christians shot, beheaded and filmed by Islamic State
Coptic Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina on Ethiopian Christians massacred: the martyrs are those in whom the great and consoling victory of Christ shines
ISIS slaughters 30 Christians on beach in Libya
The Christian tragedy in the Middle East did not begin with Isis
With great distress and sadness I learn of the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Lybia. I know that Your Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind at the sight of your faithful children being killed for the sole reason that they are followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I reach out to you in heartfelt spiritual solidarity to assure you of my closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia.
It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant. Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ! The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil. All the more this cry must be heard by those who have the destiny of peoples in their hands.
At this time we are filled with the Easter joy of the disciples to whom the women had brought the news that “Christ has risen from the dead”. This year, that joy – which never fades – is tinged with profound sorrow. Yet we know that the life we live in God’s merciful love is stronger than the pain all Christians feel, a pain shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions.
With heartfelt condolences I exchange with Your Holiness the embrace of peace in Christ Our Lord.
From the Vatican, 20 April 2015