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January 1, 2018

There is a trend within the Copts to consider all who die at the hand of the Islamists as martyrs. I disagree with that for the following reasons:

First, the traditional view of a martyr in the Church is somebody who consciously dies for Christ rather than lives when given the choice by the persecutors to deny Christ and live or stick to Christ and die. Such were the martyrs of the classical period such as Saints Menas, Victor and George; and the later martyrs of our Church such as Saint Salib in AD 1512. Christian martyrdom was based on audacity, defiance, courage and faith. In political terms, the martyrs were performing an act of resistance – a peaceful resistance based on conscious self-sacrifice to bring about victory of the Kingdom of Heaven. That was a great and might fight in which the martyr enlisted in the forces of Christ against the forces of the Lords of Darkness of this World: a drama of the highest degree.

Second, not all who have been killed by the Islamists from within us recently are, however, martyrs in the traditional meaning of the word. Some are, such as the 21 Martyrs of Libya in 2015 and the 28 Martyrs of Minya in 2017 who refused to convert to Islam to avoid execution. But, there are many Copts who have been killed, like those attacked at their homes, slaughtered at their work-places or shot or blown up at churches. These were courageous heroes, and many of them were undoubtedly saints; however, it will be hard to call them martyrs as they were not exposed to the same test as that faced by, for example, Saint Salib. They were often attacked and killed unaware; and some might had been, like me, full of sins and often in doubt though always fighting it. Again, some of them might have not wanted to die at all, at least unnaturally and prematurely as they had families to look after and lives, nay, divine gifts, to enjoy and use to help others and make the world better. Some Copts may not be religious at all at the time of their massacre by the Islamists.

Third, and here I come to the main reason behind writing this article: there is a danger in considering all our dead at the hands of our enemy as martyrs since martyrdom is taken as victory in a conflict; something that is welcomed, praised and often invited in our history. It guarantees Paradise – the easiest way to be with Christ, the angels and saints afterlife. Martyrdom is an event to celebrate rather than to be sad about. The Copts, therefore, tend not to see the magnitude of loss once they put in their mind that the dead is a martyr. When it is real martyrdom, there is nothing wrong with that attitude; but, when it is not, there is every reason to regret it: it trivialises the loss; reduces anger; and paralyses one into doing nothing to prevent more of it. It is a recipe for impotence.

No, not all those who were massacred of us by the Islamists were martyrs – many were not aware that they were to die that death; many wanted to live out their natural lives like all normal human beings; and yet many did not want to die unprepared spiritually.  The Copts must not fool themselves into a belief that all is well; that all will enter Paradise; that there was nothing to be angry about or to fight and prevent. The Copts must see their dead as victims of crime – fallen, heroes and brave men and women; but not all martyrs. This will make them appreciate the magnitude of their loss; take it as abnormal, unnatural and unwanted; and fight to prevent its repetition.

You may also want to read my article titled The Coptic concept of martyrdom must not be contaminated by Islam here.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Waguid Aziz Maurice permalink
    January 2, 2018 2:19 am

    Christ said, your hair is accounted for, so for those who are killed by the hands of Islamists had been chosen by our lord
    Although I can see your point in considering their attitude even life pattern – if not according to our faith-may be viewed as an example for other Copts .
    Seneksar writings should be evaluated and update to accommodate those who were killed because their religion.

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