Why The Islamic State Have Named Egypt Their Next Target
A full version of this article featured in Frontline Faith Magazine - Love > Fear, click here to read.
The church in Egypt is the largest evangelical church in the Middle East, and it’s currently under attack. The Islamic State have named the Egyptian church as their next target. An order has been sent out that no-one is allowed to “leave any infidel Christian in Egypt until you have threatened their life”.
Egypt is the bridge between the Middle East and Africa, where the Islamic State’s ideology has begun to spread. The church is preparing for an increase in persecution. But instead of fear, many are choosing to respond with forgiveness and love.
Image: Coptic church community in Egypt
On 15 February 2015, a group linked to the self-proclaimed Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya. The video was titled, “A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross.”
The men had been abducted in December and January. They were originally from the poorer village of Minya, Egypt and went to Libya for better job opportunities. The armed militants checked what religion was written on their I.D. cards, before taking the Christians hostage and letting the Muslims go free. Photos were released of the handcuffed men wearing orange jumpsuits and marching in single file. They were forced to kneel on the beach as masked men stood behind them and carried out their execution.
An Impossible Response
A brother of one of the believers who was killed said, “We had a hope that they would be released... But the will of God was for them to be martyrs of Christ, and that is better than life. They kept the faith until the last moment. We are proud of them.”
Christians in cities, towns and villages across Egypt rallied together in prayer. Their message to the Islamic State was clear. The day after the video was released, an Egyptian pastor shared, “From the Egyptian church to ISIS: We love you and have pity on you, and pray that God may open your eyes so that you can see the true light in Jesus Christ.”
“We’re not intimidated by your threats. Death is a vanquished enemy for us, vanquished by the power of The Christ, in his resurrection from the dead. We are not armed and we’re not militant but our prayers are stronger than all your weapons.”
Another pastor said, “I stand in awe before the one who once taught us to love beyond what is reasonable according to human logic. By teaching these words, our Lord Jesus has truly introduced a new hope to humanity that didn’t exist before.”
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” - Matthew 5:44
“These martyrs refused to deny their faith to stay alive,” he continued. “The sound of prayers requesting mercy and life, not revenge and destruction, calling on God’s name to come and change the hearts of the killers, is loudly heard across Egypt.”
“We pray that God will remove their stone hearts (reflected in their inhumane actions), and give them hearts of flesh and blood, capable of loving.”
Former terrorists, who used to kill Christians have begun to come to church because God has changed their hearts. They’re now preaching the gospel and seeing many people come to Christ. Christians make up about 15% of the the population in Egypt, with the church dating back over 2,000 years.
Continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt and that God changes the hearts of those who persecute them.
A full version of this article featured in Frontline Faith Magazine - Love > Fear.