The Lent of the 21 Egyptian Copts martyred in Libya
Rome (AsiaNews) - This year, Lent is reflected in a special icon: that of the 21 young Egyptian Copts beheaded by Islamic State militants on the shores of the Mediterranean, in the area of Tripoli. The ritualistic video of their execution was posted online a few days before Ash Wednesday, while the West was celebrating Carnival.
The horror, the suffering and disdain provoked by those cruel images, flawlessly produced with sophisticated means, is interrupted by one shot, a close up of one young man, Guergues Milad Sanyût, his head held back by his Executioner, whispering the words "Ya Rabbi Yasou "(" Jesus, my Lord! "). Others also silently whisper the words of prayer, their eyes saddened by the realization of what is about to happen.
Some analysts believe
that in all likelihood the Islamic State militants gave these men the choice of
conversion to Islam to escape death. And yet all of them remained firm in their
faith in Jesus, whom they invoked before their death.
The Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros proclaimed them martyrs and has fixed February 15 as their liturgical memory. Pope Francis also celebrated Mass for them and repeatedly insisted on the fact that these young Copts were "killed because they are Christians".
These martyrs, so similar to Jesus in death, must accompany us throughout Lent and for life.
This year, in his Lenten Message Pope Francis asks us to combat the "globalization of indifference".
"Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others - he writes - we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure... Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don't think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront".
Before the martyrdom of these 21 young Egyptians, this message probably prompted most of us to program charitable initiatives in favor of the poor, the marginalized, the "peripheries" (which are so fashionable today thanks to the Pope's emphasis on them).
Following the execution on that beach in Tripoli, there were those who wanted to launch a war against Libya, those who "intensified their diplomatic dialogue", those who wanted to expel Muslims from their country.
These reactions - while understandable, of course, hardly appropriate to the situation - are likely to melt like snow in the sun as over time we return to the comfortable and selfish grind of our everyday lives. Because the indifferent heart remains untouched.
The pope is very clear: " God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us. "We love because he first has loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart. He knows us by name, he cares for us and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him. He is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us". It is impossible to conquer indifference if we do not first discover how much God loves us, if we do not first conquer our indifference towards God.
It is this indifference
towards God which in turn makes us indifferent - superficial or reactionary -
towards others, incapable of true and constant attention, because by eliminating
God from the horizon of our life, we make ourselves the center of the world and
masters of reality, which we fill with our power and our violence.
The Islamic State claim they are fighting for God, but in reality they suffer from megalomania believing themselves to be God. The 21 timid martyrs who whispered the name of Jesus with their last breath testified to the very end how the center of their lives, was not their own well-being but Jesus himself : "Your love is better than life," says a psalm (Ps 62: 4).
Their testimony is also changing the way the Islamic world lives its faith and coexistence with Christians, as signaled by some openings from the Imam of Al-Azhar and President al-Sisi in Egypt, who participated in the mourning of Christians in his country.