Remembering the 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs

Remembering the 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs


February 14th, Valentine’s Day, is when we remember romance, love and fidelity.   Ironically, Saint Valentine wasn’t known for his smooth moves of love.  He was a martyred bishop from the 3rd century.  It seems we’ve found ourselves celebrating a saint whose witness has lost its meaning.

On February 15th we have an opportunity to remember 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs  who were brutally and publicly slaughtered. Unlike Saint Valentine, I hope we can do a better job of remembering why they were martyred and hold their example of bravery as a witness and commitment to our beliefs.

Recently, His Grace Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, wrote an article regarding the Responsibility to Protect resolution of the United Nations.  Read the article below and learn how you too can be a witness.

Remembering the 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs

On February 15, Christians throughout the world will remember the courage and religious fortitude of the 21 Martyred Coptic Christians. This day will not only be observed by the Coptic Orthodox Christian Church, but has been recognized by the Pope of Rome on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on behalf of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches, and other Christian churches throughout the world.

As we approach February 15, I ask that everyone remember the brave Coptic Christians that were executed last year on this date in Libya at the hands of terrorist for no other reason than their faith in  Jesus Christ. Bloodshed in the Middle East has become all too common, and we Americans with our busy lives have become immune to stories of atrocities. Furthermore, many Americans are unaware of the minority Middle Eastern Christians and their plight.

This particular crime against humanity was a very public, very graphic display of the genocide Christian minorities are facing currently in the Middle East. It was broadcast worldwide by the criminals who committed the crime to intimidate and demoralize Christians. They failed in a twisted attempt to demonstrate their power even to other extremists.

The 21 men executed that day were traveling tradesman working on a construction job. All were native Egyptians but one, who came from the African nation of Chad. The murder of that one man would become the extremists’ greatest failure.

Captured without resistance and paraded before cameras, the executioners demanded each man identify his religious allegiance. When given the chance to deny the Christ and possibly live, with a knife held to their throats, each of the brave 20 Coptic Christians declared the name of Jesus, and for that each was executed. They refused to deny their faith in the face of evil.

The man from Chad was not a Christian when captured. Yet when he witnessed the dedication of the 20 to Jesus Christ, he remained with his coworkers and with his last words declared the Lord’s name as his savior.  He became a Christian. Rather than demoralize Christians, the faith of these men are an inspiration.

Yet while we remember their sacrifice, is there not more that we can do to help stop this genocide against Christians in the Middle East?

Calling to enact the Responsibility to Protect.

The faithful of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago adopted a resolution calling on our elected political leaders to officially recognize the Genocide in the Middle East and by doing so they would enact the United Nations Resolution called Responsibility to Protect.

In 2005, recognizing the ongoing failure to adequately respond to the most heinous crimes known to humankind, world leaders at the United Nations World Summit made an historic commitment to protect populations through the Responsibility to Protect which stipulates that:

  • A nation carries the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing;
  • The international community has a responsibility to assist nations in fulfilling this responsibility; and,
  • The international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a nation fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of crimes, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures through the United Nations Security Council.

The current conflict in Syria, once confined but now enveloping Iraq and much of the Middle East, has endured far too long in endless fighting. The international community has witnessed numerous examples of war crimes, of ethnic cleansing, and far too many examples of genocide against Christian minorities by various groups.  Yet despite officially supporting the Responsibility to Protect, the elected leaders of our own nation have yet to officially apply this in the case of crimes against Christians in the Middle East.

While it may seem like we in the United States have little ability to change conditions in the Middle East and elsewhere, I am convinced change can be achieved through education and attention to the problem. Our nation made a commitment, along with the other members of the United Nations, to never again allow such heinous crimes to be committed. Now that we see them displayed before our very eyes, how can we ignore that commitment?

The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, representing all Greek Orthodox parishioners within Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota as well as large parts of Missouri and Indiana, have called on our President, Senators and Congressmen to take the steps required to officially enact the Responsibility to Protect resolution. We have sent them our own resolution addressing this issue passed by our parishioners as well as strongly encouraged each individual parish and parishioner to reach out to their individual national leader on this topic.

Please join us in this effort. You can view, share and print our Resolution on our website;  You can take action by joining us in contacting your elected leaders. Please take a moment on February 15 and not only remember the sacrifice of the 21 Martyred Coptic Christians but also join us in taking action to end this Genocide.

+Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos
Metropolis of Chicago
40 East Burton Place
Chicago, IL 60610
(office)  312-337-4130



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About author

Presvytera Vassi Haros

Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.