Tuesday, February 17, 2015

In honor of the 21 Martyrs of Libya

From the blog Finding Freedom in Christianity, a post entitled "In honour of our 21 Martyrs of Libya."

I am breaking from my retreat to write with tears a tribute of honour and veneration to our newest martyrs, the 21 martyrs in Libya. These valiant men have offered themselves as a living sacrifice as a testimony before the whole world and all nations.

But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.
(Lk 21:12–19)

That, my friends, is the Gospel reading typically read for the martyrs. This is the perfection in deed of what it means to be a crossbearer.

I am breaking from my retreat to write with tears a tribute of honour and veneration to our newest martyrs, the 21 martyrs in Libya. These valiant men have offered themselves as a living sacrifice as a testimony before the whole world and all nations.

Please, reflect with me a little, and think on what this means. Try and understand your life, your faith, and your church. We, who live in the West are in the same situation as these martyrs. They left their country looking for a better living, looking for jobs and opportunities that would help them be more successful and stable in this world. But in a moment, their world changed: kidnapped, possibly tortured, belittled, berated, mocked, trampled upon, and finally, beheaded. For what? For the Cross. For the sign of their Christ. The sign of their God. The sign of our Lord’s own suffering and death – but also – the sign of His Glory.

You hear the synaxarium entries in Church every Liturgy. How many times have you rolled your eyes when you heard, “…and after many and various tortures, finally they cut off their holy heads and they received the crown of martyrdom. Their prayers be with us and Glory be to God forever…” Do we not hear it all the time and then jest with one another “It’s the same story, just insert the name of whichever martyr’s feast day it is.” I am guilty of this. I have made these jokes. Today I am confronted with a new reality, when for the first time since the old era of martyrs, we have videos that show the whole world how gruesome, heinous and despicably odious it is to hate and to murder another human being. Never before have we been able to see what kind of courage and valiance it takes to kneel down while someone declares that he views you and your God as filth, all the while waiting for the edge of the sword to come upon you.

What faith! What courage! What valiance! What heroism! What tongue can find enough words to praise these men who laid down their lives before them, and who went to their creator crying out and proclaiming, “O my Lord, Jesus!” to the last breath?! I, myself, could not watch until the end; I cannot see the sight of a human being being desecrated in this way, no matter what creed. Can you understand now, for what reason the Church sings the praises and honours of the martyrs above all the saints? Can you understand now why we sing doxologies for them and praise them in our services? Do you understand why we have long venerations to honour people like this? Do you understand now the point of those random verses in tasbeha (midnight praises) where we sing of the “new martyrs” and the “49 elders of Scetis” and “the martyrs of such and such place”? Do you know why we have synaxarium entries that simply say someone was martyred? It’s because of these real events that wrench our hearts but also lift our heads with pride. This is how the Church felt each and every time these events happened! We want them to be remembered, we want the world to know that we are proud of them and that their death on our behalf, on behalf of our God and on behalf of our identity, was not in vain. We do not want them blotted out from history as though their sacrifice and precious blood was worth nothing.

One of the captions their murderers wrote says, “these insisted to remain in unbelief”. Do you understand what that means? It means that like the ancient martyrs, they were being bargained with and then threatened into denying their faith. It means that they had options and opportunities to deny their God and save their own lives, returning to their families, and possibly rewarded for joining these terrorists in their version of religion. Yet, they did not. My God, what faith! My God, what zeal! Would God grant me a portion of their belief.
My friends, did you not go West for the same thing? Are you not being murdered as well? You are. Not with the brutal edge of the sword, but with the slow-acting poison of secularism, relativism, and atheism. Everyday you are being asked to deny your Christ with what they are offering. If you refuse, you are hated, persecuted, mocked, jeered, ostracised, called weird, queer, haters, bigots, close-minded, selfish, pedophiles, ignorant – you name it. You are being baited with promises of sex, love, fulfillment and ‘freedom’ if you deny your religion. What is your response? Will you kneel and say, “Oh, my Lord Jesus” and “insist to remain in your unbelief” of their gospel, or will you join them?

People your own age and older, gave up their lives for the cross in front of the whole world. What are we doing? We struggle with sin, but as St. Paul says, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Heb. 12:4) But these men have. I am not trying to be dramatically tragic, but it is a human tragedy, and it’s one that should sound like a call to arms and battle for all Christians. Not a physical battle against people and nations – but a rally around the Cross of our Saviour and all that it stood for.

BE HOLY! If you have two coats give one to someone else! If you have excess give it to others! Struggle for purity as our God is pure! Do not get angry! Love your neighbour as yourself! Do not want something that is not yours! Don’t wish evil on anyone! Love to the point of death! Fight evil with love! That is the message of the gospel! Nothing has power over you, not people, sin or death, nothing! We are new and alive in the Risen Lord Who made us and created us and Who loves us and died and rose for us.

Do we believe this? Do we live this? We grumble about self-control in a fast and about ‘giving up stuff’. We whine about what the rest of the world is “allowed to do” that we cannot. Do you think if for His sake you are not able to deny yourself in the small things, that you will be able to deny yourself in martyrdom?

No, my friends.

“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
(Re 3:21)

We must endure, we must repent – that is, have a change of heart, a return to our senses – or we will not overcome, we will not endure, and we will not be counted with the choir of the victorious.

I pray that the families of these martyrs are consoled with heavenly consolation. Even as the saints often appeared after their deaths to comfort the faint-hearted, I hope their families receive the same grace. I pray, I really pray that the Church puts these 21 martyrs immediately in the Synaxarium, so that we can declare their holiness and sacrifice to the world, and from them gain strength, courage, and more importantly – their intercession before the throne of God. May we say now with meaning, of these 21, “…and after many and various tortures, finally they cut off their holy heads and they received the crown of martyrdom. Their prayers be with us and Glory be to God forever.”

Pray to the Lord on our behalf,
O Courageous and valiant heroes,
The 21 Martyrs of Libya,
That He may forgive us our sins.

The names of our martyred sons:

1. Milad Makeen Zaky
2. Abanub Ayad Atiya
3. Maged Solaiman Shehata
4. Yusuf Shukry Yunan
5. Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
6. Bishoy Astafanus Kamel
7. Somaily Astafanus Kamel
8. Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
9. Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
10. Girgis Milad Sinweet
11. Mina Fayez Aziz
12. Hany Abdelmesih Salib
13. Bishoy Adel Khalaf
14. Samuel Alham Wilson
15. Worker from Awr village
16. Ezat Bishri Naseef
17. Loqa Nagaty
18. Gaber Munir Adly
19. Esam Badir Samir
20. Malak Farag Abram
21. Sameh Salah Faruq

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this. I would never watch such a horrific video, therefore I was unaware that the terrorists had included a caption saying, “These insisted to remain in unbelief.” I have not heard this from any other news source. I pray that it is true and that they died as true martyrs of Christ. May their memory be eternal, and may their families be comforted knowing that they held to their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, refusing to deny Him in the face of the satanic evil that these terrorists hold as their false religion.