The bodies of the 20 Coptic Christian martyrs, who ISIS beheaded three years ago, have finally returned home to Egypt where they will rest in honor.
Coptic Pope Tawadros II received the bodies on Monday at the airport in Cairo and accompanied them to the Cathedral of the Martyrs of the Faith in Minya, which was dedicated in their honor in 2017, according to Aleteia. Churches and monasteries throughout Egypt rang their bells to herald the return of the 20 “martyrs of the faith,” which will remain in the cathedral where they were buried on Tuesday. The other martyr’s remains, a Christian from Ghana who died for his faith with the Egyptian Christians, did not go to Egypt.
“The Church is in joy due to the return of the martyrs’ remains to Egypt,” Bishop Macarius of Minya said, according to Gulf News. “The church is proud of them because of their display of firm faith.”
ISIS militants kidnapped the 21 Christians between December 2014 and January 2015. They then beheaded the Christians on a beach in Libya in February 2015, which they filmed and published online in a video, “Message Signed with Blood, Destined for the Nation of the Cross.” Libya’s Ministry of the Interior discovered the martyrs’ remains in October 2017 in a mass grave in the town of Sirte — once held by ISIS militants — after a former captive of ISIS provided the location of the bodies. (RELATED: Bodies Of The 21 Coptic Christians ISIS Killed Found, To Be Returned To Families)
Doctors had difficulty identifying the remains, given the fact they were all decapitated and had decomposed for three years, but did initially identify them as 20 Egyptian men and one man of unknown African origin. The Coptic community in Egypt rejoiced at the discovery of the bodies, which came shortly after the completion of the cathedral dedicated in their honor.
“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,” Father Makar Issa of The Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox Church told International Christian Concern. “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 image of the 21 martyrs became a church icon that has inspired greater faith among Christians worldwide, according to Bishop Anba Angaelos of the U.K. Coptic Church.
“The same tool used to try and magnify violence and division actually became a platform for everyone to see the strength of their faith,” Angaelos told Christian Today a year after the murder of the martyrs.
“An even stronger and more inconceivable message of forgiveness came from their families and communities,” Angaelos added. “They rejected the temptation to become bitter, angry and vengeful, and inspired the world with their gracious and courageous sentiment.”
The mother of Mina Fayez Aziz, one of the martyrs, was comforted and blessed by the discovery of the bodies, she told ICC. She would “visit them every day at the church” and that she prayed that “God complete their safe return to us,” she said.
Now her prayers have been answered.
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