The bodies of 20 Coptic Christians who were beheaded by Islamic State terror group militants in February 2015 were finally laid to rest in Egypt’s Minya province, more than three years after they were kidnapped.
“Everyone stood beside the martyr that belongs to him and cried a little, but they were tears of longing, nothing more,” said Bishri Ibrahim, father of Kerolos, one of the victims.
“But we are happy and joyful that they have returned to the village. This is a blessing for the country and to all Copts all over the world,” he added.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that the funeral service at a church in the village of al-Our in Minya province was made possible after Libya finally flew back the remains of the believers earlier this week.
The victims, 20 Egyptian Copts and one Ghanaian Christian, appeared in an IS video in 2015 lined up on a Libyan beach in orange jumpsuits, before they were executed.
They reportedly were asked to renounce their faith in Christ to save their lives, but refused to do so.
“I wanted to see Milad come back from Libya on his feet after his struggle and hard work to earn a living in a harsh life abroad,” said 55-year-old Zaki Hanna, the father of one of the victims.
“But thanks be to God, he died a hero, did not beg anyone to spare his life and he and his brothers, the martyrs, did not abandon their faith or homeland.”
The victims have been declared martyrs of the Christian faith, with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi himself ordering the construction of The Church of the Martyrs of Faith and Homeland in their honor.
Bashir Estephanos, whose two younger brothers were killed by IS in Libya, said that Christians in al-Our village had been praying to be able to bury their loved ones.
“Our prayers were answered, so thanks be to God from the bottom of our hearts,” Estephanos said.
Children of the Coptic Christians have said that they are “proud” of the courage shown by their fathers.
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, which has been assisting the families of the murdered men in Egypt, said in June 2017 that staff has personally visited the bereaved families.
“We met with some of the wives of the martyrs and asked them about their kids and how they live right now, a common answer was, ‘Our kids in their new nice private school have been so proud of their fathers among their friends and they have worked hard to match with studying the new curriculums to stay up to that new level of education,'” Daly shared then.
Christians were relieved after it was reported in October 2017 that Libyan authorities found the remains of the 21 Christians.
“Our Lord chose the right time for the appearance and return of the remains of the martyrs after the completion of the building of the Church of the Martyrs of Libya to receive the blessed bodies of the martyrs to be placed at the new church in the village,” Father Makar Issa, a priest at The Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, told International Christian Concern at the time.