FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 19, 2015 | USCIRF
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns the barbarous murder of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by a Libyan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which brutally beheaded them on camera.
“We grieve for these innocent young men and send our deepest condolences to their families. These men were kidnapped and beheaded solely because they were Coptic Christians. Once again, ISIL shows the world what it is: a barbaric, nihilistic group that wants only to kill and terrorize all who do not adhere to its extremist beliefs. ISIL’s targets of intolerance have included reporters, aid workers, a Jordanian pilot, Muslims who do not share ISIL’s intolerant views, and especially members of minority religious communities, be they Christians, Yazidis, or other religious minorities,” said USCIRF Chair Katrina Lantos Swett.
The men reportedly left Egypt in hopes of finding work in Libya, and were kidnapped in separate incidents near Serte in Libya last December and January. In a video broadcast via a website that supports Islamic State, the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians were seen being marched to a beach, forced to kneel and then beheaded. Thirteen of the 21 Copts were from the same village of al-Our in Egypt. Egypt is home to the largest number of Christians in the Middle East, who make up an estimated 10% of the nation’s 80 million citizens, most of whom are Sunni Muslims.
“These murders sadly underscore the perilous status of religious minorities and the threat to religious freedom across the Middle East. USCIRF urges the United States and like-minded nations to redouble efforts to defend peaceful religious communities against ISIL’s violent religious repression and brutality, and provide humanitarian assistance to those who have been displaced,” said Lantos Swett.
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