Libya Offers the First Coptic Martyrs Outside Egypt in the Modern Era

Coptic Orthodox Church - Misrata, Libya

Coptic Orthodox Church – Misrata, Libya

On December 29, 2012, an unknown assailant killed two Egyptians praying in a service building attached to a Coptic Orthodox Church in Misrata, Libya. Located to the west of Tripoli, the attacker threw a homemade bomb into a midnight prayer service of 150 people, injuring two others.

According to Fr. Marcos, the Coptic priest in Misrata, the assailant appeared to have targeted the service, attacking the home rather than the more heavily secured formal church building. He did not have any prior warning of an attack, however, nor any knowledge if his church was targeted because it was a Coptic Orthodox Church in particular.

Fr. Marcos wondered if the attacker may have been confused thinking this prayer service was in celebration of the New Year. Two years earlier in Alexandria a Coptic Orthodox Church was bombed on December 31, 2011, killing 21. This prayer service had been ongoing for a month, however, so the priest offered the possibility of no connection at all.

The churches of Libya, however, are included in the Coptic Orthodox diocese of Beheira in western Egypt. This is the diocese from which the current patriarch, Pope Tawadros II, was elected.

The bombing represents an unfortunate continuation of the sufferings of the Coptic Orthodox Church since the Alexandria bombing. Fr. Marcos noted the two who died were the first Coptic martyrs outside of Egypt in the modern era.

Whoever did this, he assured, represented a very small percentage of people. Libyans, he declared, are good people who do not know religious fanaticism as they have only one religion, Islam. The church had lived in peace in Misrata for a long time.

During the Libyan Revolution at one point the church was hit by a bomb. On other occasions it was strafed by gunfire. None of these events targeted the church, and Fr. Marcos related that no injuries were suffered. The Coptic community gathered together as a community and managed as best they could.

Their management included offering service and grace to others. Soldiers connected to Col. Gaddafi at times demanded shelter in the church. This was freely offered, but with the request that all weapons be left outside. Sometimes this was followed, sometimes not.

Fr. Marcos remarked the Copts of Misrata are praying for their own salvation, the salvation of Libya, and the salvation of the world. They ask God to bring peace and love to their city, even to their enemies who committed this crime.

He remarked his church was a praying church, united in seeking blessing for all people, of which God heard their prayers. He wondered if the attack was orchestrated by the devil in an effort to stop them from praying. If so, he assured, this plan would fail.

May God bless their community, the people of Libya, Copts in Egypt and around the world, and the nations of the Arab Spring. May the upheavals they suffer result in peace, prosperity, and good governance in the near future.

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