Dressed in the orange one-piece IS execution suits, they were marched handcuffed and leg chained, each accompanied by an armed executioner. The men knew that they were to be slaughtered. The request of some to have last words over the phone with loved ones in Egypt had been denied. One by one, they were urged repeatedly to recant their faith in Christ. Not one did.
In Jesus’s hands
None stumbled in his walk. Some were clearly whispering prayers. In the first YouTube recording, one is heard saying in Arabic, ‘Jesus, my life is in your hands’, as he felt the knife on his neck. The man beside said, ‘Amen’.
The gospel knowledge of each of the 20 Egyptians is not clear. At least three were known to have made public professions of faith and several of the others regularly participated in Bible study and prayer meetings. They all came from poor village families; some were illiterate. They went to Libya to work as construction labourers. The Chadian brother was detained because of his public witness to Christ.
Some of the captors were not Libyan, but clearly Egyptian Muslim fanatics. Speaking in Egyptian Arabic, they shouted at their victims, ‘Infidels! Infidels!’ as they dragged them away. Other Egyptian Muslim labourers in the compound were terrorised by what they heard and saw. They are leaving Libya in growing numbers because they are being coerced to join the murderous jihadist gangs.
One thing is certain – none of the 21 was willing to spare his own life by denying Christ and accepting to convert to Islam! It seems they were all kept in one place over the weeks of captivity and encouraged one another to remain loyal to Christ.
Another of the men initially sought after managed to hide with the aid of a Muslim co-labourer. He later escaped the area and returned to Egypt. He confirmed that the captors were openly amazed and outraged by the resolve of the men not to convert to Islam, even when repeatedly threatened by death.
The mother of one of the young men was interviewed on TV a few days later. She was asked what she wanted done to the murderers. Sobbing, she said: ‘We forgive them and pray for the Lord’s mercy for them and for their families’. The interviewer, a secularist Muslim, afterwards commented: ‘Now I understand how Christians take to heart the glorious words of Jesus about loving one’s enemies and forgiving those who persecute them’.
A woman with a distinctly Muslim name later blogged: ‘Our murderous terrorists and suicide bombers are considered martyrs when they die in action. But they are not. These brave Christians are, just in the footsteps of Jesus, the noblest man that ever walked on earth.’
One of the first TV commentators, a Muslim, viewing the video of these gruesome beheadings, reported: ‘Yes, I heard with my own ears and saw with my own eyes their lips in prayer... I heard the one calling on Jesus to receive his life... what courage, what faith... this must be what God wants humans to be like!’