02/24/2015, 00.00
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An Egypt in mourning prays for its martyrs beheaded in Libya

by André Azzam
Patriarch Tawadros has enrolled the names of the 21 young men killed by the Islamic State in the Coptic Synaxis, a sort of canonization. Their memory will be celebrated every year on 15 February. Even for the State authorities, the 21 beheaded men are martyrs. A church will be built in the village where most of the victims hailed from. The strong solidarity of Muslims.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Below we publish the second part of a report by our correspondent in Egypt, on the life and labor of the families of the young people beheaded by militants of the Islamic State in Libya. In the midst of pain, grief, prayer the unity of the Egyptian people is strengthened. Patriarch Tawadros announces that the names of the 21 Copts killed in Libya will be enrolled in the Coptic Synaxis, which is the equivalent to a form of canonization. Their memorial will fall February 15 according to the Gregorian calendar, and on the eighth day of Amshir on the Coptic calendar. Several personalities have pointed out that in the video of their execution, some of the young men gave witness to their faith and softly said prayers and invocations to Jesus, just before being beheaded (For Part I click here).

Al-'Our village has become a large space of mourning, in the church and the halls around as well as under a big tent and in the families houses where a multitude of people are coming from all around the province and from beyond to present condolences. At the village entrance stand ambulances in order to help anyone who would feel bad to get an easy transportation to Samallout's hospitals if needed. Many inhabitants are still there at the Good Shepherd hospital receiving cure.

Father Stephanos, the bishopric Vicar asserts that the retaliation strikes of Egyptian aircraft in Libya gave some support to the families and gave rise to a general support to the army from all components of the nation.

Zaynab Sharqâwy, the Muslim mother of a young man who was killed in 2011 during a demonstration in front of the Prime minister offices, came specially from Cairo to mourn the families. She said: ''I can feel the sorrow of every mother and I came because we all need to support each other. We Egyptians are like that and se shall always remain the same, united in sorrow and mourning, more than in joyful occasions'' demonstrating that in sorrow there is no religious difference, all the people are the same and Muslim and Christian are united.

In the house of Louqâ Nagâty Anîs 'Abdou, in Al-Gabâly village, all the ladies mourning him were gathered around his orphan daughter who never saw her father since she is born nine month ago. His brother, Shenouda Nagâty Anîs explained that Louqâ, 27 years old came back from Libya last year to get married and he had to go back to Libya before his daughter was born and he never saw her.

At Al-'Our village, inside the home of Tawadraus Youssef Tawadraus, 35 years old, his widow was sitting around with her four children, the eldest one being around 13, remembering the good days with their husband and father when they were all living in one room in the grandfather's house. The widow explains that her husband had to go to Libya 8 months ago to be able to buy a small house for his family. Every month he would call them and he expressed more and more fear about the situation. The last call was on new year's eve when he told them that seven fellow Lybians had been captured.

Hâny 'Abdal-Massîh Salîb left four children, three daughters and a son. Magda, his widow says: ''We are not well off... He traveled not just to offer a better education for the children''.

Peter, 6 years, Irene, 4 years, Boula (Paul), 2 years, are the children of Samouïl Wilson, 32 years. They cannot move from the house where they are all surrounded by people dressed in black yelling and lamenting. Their father was a plumber.

Milâd Solimân Shehata is related to seven of the victims. He is receiving friends from all around the country  who are coming to support him and mourn with the village people. His brother Mâgued Solimân Shehata went to Libya eight months ago for his three children: Fifi the eldest daughter is a student at the Faculty of Art, Samouïl is due to start university  by the end of next summer, and Myrna, the youngest daughter is ending primary school. He wanted to help them in their studies. Milâd also lost his three nephews: Abânoub 'Ayyâd Shehata, Youssef Shawky and Kyrillos Boshrâ and his two cousins: Hâny 'Abdal-Massîh, Tawadraus Youssef Tawadraus. He told us: ''If we would receive their corpses than we would have all of them buried in the same tomb! In our last call, after the kidnapping of the seven ones before new year's eve I was telling him to take care and to come back quickly and suddenly my phone battery run down and I could not imagine that it would run down for ever''. He told us about a message he sent with other people from the village to the authorities informing them that they are ''eager to become soldiers, hold weapons and support the army''. The message was also an expression of support  for President Al-Sissi and asking him to organize an airlift to bring back home all Egyptians from Libya.

People are trying to begin the formalities in order to get death certificates and be able to receive the regular pension allocated to the families. Sobhy Makîn, brother of Milâd Makîn stated that the population expects an official announcement about the approximate date of the slaughter in order to organize the traditional celebration of the fortieth day after death which goes back to the pharaonic times.

In Alexandria, the 67 Coptic Orthodox churches organized requiem masses in honour of the victims, attended by hundreds of faithful, while the Educational Department in the governorate decided to stop all educational festivities and celebrations for at least one week to share in the mourning. In Damietta all cultural activities have been postponed as well. The governor of Al-Sharqeyya (East of the Delta) and his colleagues went to present official condolence to the Bishop of Zagagig, capital of the province. The same happened in Qena, Sohag and Asswan, where the governor  stopped all festivities and delegated high civil servants to go to Samallout and the victims villages for condolences. While in South Sinai, number of activists organized an evening with candles at the seashore in Sharm al-Shaykh to honour the lost martyrs. Many tourists joined them.

The Prime minister himself travelled to Al-'Our village along with six ministers (Interior Affairs, Local Development, Trade and Industry, Religious Affairs, Social Solidarity, Youth). He asserted: ''Our sons blood is dear to us. All of you here are of a great value for the nation. We all are ready to scarify ourselves to defend the country and struggle for one simple goal, the wellbeing and better future for the nation''. Samallout Bishop and the Prime minister declared to be ''proud to have so many martyrs in the heavens''. The Prime minister announced that the government will build in the village a church dedicated to the martyrs at the State expenses. Then he insisted on paying a visit to every house where mothers and widows of the victims reside.

In A-'Our, after a long day and a longer night of lament, the population gathered in front of the Virgin Mary Church. Milâd Fâyez, a relative of so many victims spoke loudly in spite of friends trying to keep him quiet: ''We should not remain silent. We have to shout loudly. How much longer must we accept ill treatment? Here two sons dead in one house, there five relatives in one family. How can we calm our anger?''

Another village man of more than 50 years old added: ''We don't want war, we just are eager for dignity here in order to be treated with dignity outside''.

Ahmad Sâber, a Muslim teacher in primary and prep school came directly from Samallout, where he resides to mourn his pupils and their families: ''We are not able to have any lessons for many days. I cannot go to work in the school. All over the area the schools are not functioning these days... Here, we don't  have a distinction between Muslim and Christian. We are all one''.

In front, a motto on the church wall states: ''Don't flow into anger, because anger grabs hold of the ignorant''. Guergues Fawzy, friend of the two brothers Bishoï and Samouïl explains how he spent some time with them in Libya before coming back to Egypt a few days before they were kidnapped. ''I did hope the kidnappers would ask for a ransom, but my hopes were dashed...''.

Amîr Yaacoub, civil servant in the local city council explains that the threat for our Egyptian fellows in Libya was clear but people are trying hardly to get a better living since there is no work potential here.

85 inhabitants of Al-'Our are still at this moment in Libya, 79 of them Christian and 6 Muslim. Over the past few days thousands of Egyptians have been flooding home through the Libyan/Egyptian borders or through Tunis, by plane. But all the country is concerned for their Egyptian compatriots still trapped in Libya.


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