Over 600 laypeople and faith leaders gathered at the Virgin Mary and St. Athanasius Church in Mississauga, Ont., Feb. 22 to mourn the 21 Egyptians Copts killed by the Islamic State allies in Libya. The church displayed a new icon representing the martyrs. Photo by Michael Swan

Hundreds gather to mourn Christians slain by Islamic State

  • February 24, 2015

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - The Coptic Christians of Toronto and their friends gathered in Mississauga Feb. 22 to answer the murder of 21 Egyptian Copts by Islamic State allies in Libya. They answered the Feb. 15 beheadings with Bible readings, prayers, songs, hope and forgiveness.

Many of the 600 to 700 faithful who gathered that Sunday evening at the Virgin Mary and St. Athanasius Church wore orange buttons — orange for the colour of the overalls the Egyptian migrant workers were wearing when IS militants murdered them before a video camera. IS dresses its prisoners in orange because it is the colour of prison uniforms at the American military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The buttons read “21 Copts, Martyrs of Libya.” In the centre of the button was a Coptic cross with a crown of martyrdom on either side.

Just one week after the video of the beheadings hit the Internet, the church was already displaying a new icon of the 21 martyrs.

The church held Christians of all kinds for the two-hour prayer service. Representing Toronto’s Catholics was Cardinal Thomas Collins. Anglican Archbishop of Toronto Colin Johnson represented the Greater Toronto Area’s nearly 400,000 Anglicans. Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton brought greetings from the Canadian Council of Churches, whose member churches constitute about 85 per cent of Canadian Christians.

“They were killed simply because they were Christians,” said Orthodox Coptic Bishop Mina, paying tribute to the martyred Copts.

“Waiting for the edge of the sword to come upon them, what faith, what courage, what valiance. We know why the Church holds martyrs above all saints. It’s because they gave their lives for Jesus. We want the whole world to know we are so proud of these martyrs. We don’t want them to be blotted out by history.”

Mina spoke beneath a banner that read, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

Bible readings began with the prophet Isaiah’s description of the suffering servant.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth,” Collins read.

“Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in Him. Let all the upright in heart glory,” read Hamilton from Psalm 64.

“God Himself will be with them; He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more,” Fr. Maximos Rizkalla read from the Book of Revelation.

Youth of the church presented songs and videos declaring their pride in Coptic tradition.

Representatives of Sunni, Shia and Ismaili Muslim communities were also present.

A long list of politicians from every party and level of government offered condolence and encouragement.

“The entire city mourns with you,” said Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie. “We stand in solidarity and in condemnation of these barbaric acts. We must pray for the families of the deceased.”

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.