• 16 February 2015

Coptic beheadings reveal IS religious cleansing agenda says Release.

Religious liberty organisation Release International has condemned the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts as the clearest indication yet of the policy of brutal religious cleansing of Christians by Islamic State militants.

A video posted by Libya jihadists loyal to Islamic State shows the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians on a beach.

The video states the Egyptian labourers were targeted because they were Christians. The title of the video is ‘A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross.’ And a caption describes the victims as ‘people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.’

The 21 Copts were among the thousands of Egyptian labourers who seek work in Libya. They were kidnapped between December and January from the Libyan coastal town of Sirte.

‘Our prayers are with their families this morning,’ says Paul Robinson, the CEO of the British–based religious liberty group Release International. ‘Those they loved were kidnapped and slaughtered simply because of their Christian faith.

‘This is the clearest evidence yet of the brutal religious cleansing of Christians by Islamist militants. The message of this propaganda video could not be more plain.’

On the video, an Islamic State fighter pledges to fight the ‘Crusaders’ until Jesus returns at the end of days. The spokesman also pledges to capture their target across the water from Libya – Rome. Rome is home to the Vatican and in the eyes of IS fighters is the foremost symbol of Christianity in Europe.

The cover of the October edition of the Islamic State magazine, Dabiq, depicts an Islamic State flag flying over the Vatican. A writer explains:

‘Rome in the Arabic tongue of the Prophet… refers to the Christians of Europe… Indeed, Allah will grant the Muslims the conquest of Rome… We fight here, while our goal is Rome.’

The unnamed writer continues: ‘We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted… If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.’

The magazine also restates the willingness of IS fighters to become martyrs to their cause: ‘Being killed… is a victory. This is where the secret lies.’

‘This is the apocalyptic vision of a death cult,’ says Paul Robinson. ‘It glories in the deaths of its own fighters and in the slaughter of its victims.’

A statement from Al–Azhar, the Cairo–based seat of Islamic learning, has denounced the killings. ‘Al–Azhar stresses that such barbaric action has nothing to do with any religion or human values.’

‘Release welcomes the voices of Muslim scholars that have been raised in condemnation of this latest wave of killings,’ says Paul Robinson. ‘It is vital that Muslims of learning and goodwill speak up in defence of freedom of faith and religion.’

Through its international network of missions Release serves persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries, by supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.