WASHINGTON: The National Council of Churches received with great distress the news of the execution of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS in Libya. We deplore all forms of extremist violence carried out in the name of religion, and are outraged by yet another demonstration of perverse violence perpetrated by ISIS militants in this brutal act against innocent victims.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the National Council of Churches’ 37 member communions and therefore this act of evil strikes close to home. When first reports emerged on Sunday, February 15, Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC Associate General Secretary, contacted Bishop Serapion of the Diocese of Los Angeles of the Coptic Orthodox Church and a member of the NCC executive committee to express his sadness and to learn more of the unfolding situation. Based on information received from the church’s headquarters in Egypt with which he remains in close contact, Bishop Serapion confirmed the tragedy had, in fact, occurred.
These killings came shortly after a gunman in Copenhagen, Denmark, apparently inspired by earlier ISIS attacks in Paris, killed one person at a free speech forum and another person at a Jewish synagogue.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is an indigenous community in Egypt, and has been so since the earliest days of Christianity. Even with tensions over the centuries, Coptic Christians have lived peaceably with their Muslim neighbors. In recent years, serious tensions have arisen between the Muslim and Christian communities. The NCC is encouraged that the Egyptian Government’s response to the attack in Libya reflects identification of the Coptic Christian community as a genuine part of the fabric of the Egyptian culture and nation.
The NCC also notes with appreciation that the Egyptian Government repudiates the claim that ISIS is legitimately carrying out these terrorist acts in the name of Islam and of the Prophet Muhammad. This is particularly important in light of the threat against Europe, and against Christianity, made by the terrorists as they carried out these executions.