Middle East and North Africa

Pope Francis calls victims of Egypt atrocity ‘Martyrs’

Harrowing eye witness accounts of last Friday’s massacre of Coptic Christians on their way to a monastery, continue to emerge.

A six-year-old boy said he survived because his mother pushed him under her seat and covered him with a bag. Another survivor, who related her experience from her hospital bed said the Jihadists, who came covered in face masks, wearing military uniforms, robbed the women of their jewelry and money before they opened fire. They killed the men first and then shot the women.

Bishop Makarios, the top Coptic Orthodox cleric in Minya, in whose Province the killings took place, said in a television interview late Saturday, that the Christian men were brought out of the bus and told they would not be killed if they converted to Islam.

“They chose death,” Makarios said. “We take pride to die while holding on to our faith,” he declared.

Pope Francis leading worship and prayer of thousands of Christians on Sunday at St Peter’s Square  said the Coptic Christians killed in Egypt in “another act of ferocious violence” had refused to renounce their Christian faith. Francis called them ‘martyrs’ and prayed: “May the Lord welcome these courageous witnesses, these martyrs, in his peace and convert the hearts of the violent ones.”

Father Thomas Iskauous who leads a congregation of Coptic Christians in Canada said. “We are praying for our mother church and for all the Christians in Egypt… We believe that all the people, and the children who were killed in this attack, are now in heaven.”

Mary Wassily, a Canadian parishioner, said, “It’s just heartbreaking… “They think they’re doing a favour to God, but actually there is suffering and shattering of lives. There are just innocent people and children being killed like this,” she added. “It’s just hard to think how they think. How can you put a gun to a child’s head and just shoot him? He’s just a child.”

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in its Amaq news agency on Saturday stating, “A security detachment from the Islamic State carried out an attack yesterday in Minya,”

About 70 Coptic Christians have been killed by the Islamic State Jihadist terror group operating in the Peninsular since December.