13 of the 21 Christians massacred by the jihadists in Sirte in 2015 were from town of El-Aour, in Upper Egypt. The area has become a destination for pilgrimages and site of mysterious healing. Fr. Rafic: "simple" people who believe in these "signs of heaven". Caution and in-depth studies are needed.
Cairo (AsiaNews) - The 2015 martyrdom of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, beheaded by the Islamic State (IS, ex Isis) on the beaches of Sirte, in Libya, is today a source of miracles for the Christian community of the Pharaohs' Country, in their sacrifice finds even more strength and vigor in the faith.
Four years after the barbaric execution of Christian workers kidnapped by jihadists, whose images have been shared around the world, their memory is still alive in Upper Egypt and their town of origin has become a place of miracles and a destination for pilgrimages.
The massacre was perhaps the culmination of jihadist barbarism, with the Caliphate militiamen who controlled most of the territory in Iraq and Syria and reaped victims and violence in Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya. The inhabitants of El-Aour, the town of origin of 13 of the victims, proudly recount the "martyrdom" of their illustrious inhabitants today venerated as saints by the Coptic Church.
"Crossing Upper Egypt does not seem to be in a majority Muslim country," observes the German writer Martin Mosebach to the Christian Post, after visiting El-Aour.
He spoke with relatives and relatives of workers killed by ISIS, who reported stories of miracles resulting from the faith and sacrifice of their martyrs.
Mosebach collected the testimonies and drafted a book entitled "The 21 - A Journey to the Land of Coptic Martyrs". "A poor and dirty village" he recalls, but full of people "rich in faith". "In the spirituality of the Copts - he adds - the miracles are an essential component" and among the inhabitants "they all speak of miracles".
One such episode regards one the son of one of the Coptic martyrs. The boy fell from the third floor of the building where he lives, passing out on impact and breaking his arm in several places. Upon awakening he told of having dreamed of his father who took him during the fall; a few days later, an x-ray revealed that there was no wound and even the fractures in the arm had healed. The common thought, explains the writer, is that "the martyrs have thaumaturgical powers".
Speaking to AsiaNews Fr. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, confirms the stories of miracles, including healings without scientific explanations or "icons that are weeping" in some houses of relatives of the martyrs.
"Of course - he warns - we must be careful and not proclaim something a miracle, even if they are simple people who want to believe in these signs of heaven. Perhaps they are also right - he adds - but we must use caution and wait for studies and confirmation, as happens in the Catholic Church which has a more cautious approach than the Coptic one ".
The fact remains that El-Aour, from a poor and primitive village, has become a land of pilgrimages and the cathedral of the martyrs is full of faithful coming from every corner of the country to every function. Some of these also travel hundreds of kilometers to pay homage to the modern heroes of the faith.
In recent years, Egyptian Copts have been the target of attacks and persecution at the hands of Islamic extremist movements. Egypt ranks 16th in the world for anti-Christian violence. Nevertheless, they do not consider themselves victims and do not seek revenge; the faith in Saint Mark, patron of the community, remains strong and firm and under the presidency of al-Sisi - in office since 2014 - the general perception of security seems to have strengthened.