CCRF Libya Appeal

copticmen

On February 16th, reports surfaced in the news media about the fate of a group of Egyptian Christians who had been kidnapped weeks earlier in the city of Sirte in Libya. The twenty-one men, members of the Coptic Orthodox Church, had been executed by Libyan militants claiming affiliation with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in what was one of the terrorist group’s most barbaric atrocities to date.

The victims were from the area around the Egyptian city of El Minya on the River Nile, an area that is home to a large Coptic Christian population and where it is popularly believed that the family of Jesus fled during the time of King Herod. The area is poor, and Coptic Christians in particular face widespread official and unofficial discrimination. As a result, many Copts are forced to seek work abroad in order to provide for their families back at home. The Copts martyred in Libya were in exactly this situation: they were men in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, most of whom had wives and children back at home in Egypt, who took the risk of travelling to the war-torn country because of the opportunity that it offered them to earn money and support their loved ones.

In the early hours of January 3rd, a group of Islamist militants singled them out on the basis of their Christian faith and took them prisoner. In spite of the men’s innocence, the Islamists saw them as symbols of the ‘oppression’ of Muslims and killed them. In reality, it is the Coptic Christians who are oppressed. As a religious minority in a land that has been their home for millennia, Copts are singled out for scapegoating by sectarian extremists who thrive on violence and division, and the Egyptian government has been unable or unwilling to protect them. Although these men’s deaths were especially gruesome and barbaric, they are part of a long-running history of violence and persecution against Coptic Christians that has steadily worsened in recent years.

The victims of this terrible atrocity have family still in Egypt who have not only lost loved ones, but who are now facing poverty and hardship without breadwinners to provide them with money. Our charity, the Medhat G. Latif Coptic Christian Relief Fund (CCRF), was established to help disadvantaged Coptic Christians who face dilemmas just like this. We therefore plan to support these men’s families by raising money for them and sending items such as food and clothing.

The CCRF aims to provide material, medical and educational support to underprivileged members of the Egyptian Coptic community, but it is also of vital importance that we raise awareness around the world through campaigns such as this of the daily struggle faced by persecuted Coptic Christians. One day we hope that we can end sectarian division and violence once and for all, and promote respect and tolerance among different religious groups.

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