A FRESH atrocity was committed last weekend by Islamic State
(IS) jihadists in Libya - the murder of 30 Ethiopian Christians -
just as the Archbishop of Canterbury was in Egypt to express
condolence for the killing in February of 21 Copts, also in
The latest video from IS shows one group of Ethiopians being
beheaded on a Libyan beach, and another being shot in a desert
The 29-minute-long video also denounced the various branches of
Christianity, and showed IS militants destroying the contents of
churches in a number of unspecified locations. A masked man then
repeated the warning issued to Christians in Iraq last year: that
they should convert to Islam, or pay a protection tax. Failure to
choose one of these options would result in death.
Archbishop Welby learned about the murder of the Ethiopians
while in Cairo. In a BBC interview soon after, he said that he had
been "as shocked and horrified by what we've been hearing this
afternoon as by anything over the past few months. There seems to
have been an overflow of evil into this region." He believed that
IS was "deeply evil, even to its own supporters if they stray one
inch off what is seen as the right road".
But helping Christians in the Middle East who were endangered by
IS presented a dilemma: "Simply to turn our backs on people in such
struggle and suffering is totally unacceptable. Equally, to say the
simple solution is that 'You will leave that area and come to our
place' - we all know that that is, again, an invitation to ethnic
cleansing on a grand scale.
"When you talk to Christian leaders in the region, they say they
want their communities to exist: they don't want Christianity in
North Africa and the Middle East to be a mere footnote in
Asked if he was worried that Christianity might be dying in the
region, Archbishop Welby replied: "Yes, unquestionably. Every time
I come to this region, that concern is reinforced."
During his brief visit to Cairo, Archbishop Welby had an
opportunity to raise such issues, as he expressed condolences for
the deaths of the Coptic Christians in Libya, and expressed
solidarity with Middle Eastern Christianity.
Hosted by the President-Bishop in the Province of Jerusalem and
the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, Archbishop Welby
visited the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, Pope
Tawadros II, delivering letters of condolence from the relatives of
British victims of IS terrorism.
He also met the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University, Mohamed Ahmed
el-Tayeb, and the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. On
Sunday evening, the Archbishop preached at a joint
Egyptian-Sudanese eucharist in All Saints' Cathedral, Cairo.
The killing of 30 Christians in Libya was widely condemned. Pope
Francis, in a message to Patriarch Abune Matthias, of the Ethiopian
Orthodox Tewahedo Church, said that it was with "great distress and
sadness" that he had learned of "the further shocking violence
perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya.
"I reach out to you in heartfelt spiritual solidarity to assure
you of my closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so
cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some
parts of Asia."
The Anglican Bishop for Ethiopia, the Rt Revd Grant LeMarquand,
wrote a letter to all churches in the country condemning the
horrifying "act of violence against those that IS calls 'people of
The terrorists involved had, he said, exhibited "the worst of
human depravity; but they have also revealed their desperate need
of a saviour. The apostle Paul . . . was turned to love by his
experience of meeting Christ on his way to the Syrian city of
Damascus. May God use his Church to so act and speak of and from
the love of Christ that many former or potential persecutors may be
turned and have their names written in the book of life."
The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK,
Bishop Angaelos, said that he was deeply saddened by the news. Such
cold-blooded killings "that unnecessarily and unjustifiably claim
the lives of innocent people, wholly undeserving of this brutality,
have unfortunately become far too familiar. Once again, we see
innocent Christians murdered purely for refusing to renounce their
A spokeswoman for the US National Security Council expressed
outrage at the "brutal mass murder". The atrocity, she said, "once
again underscores the urgent need for a political resolution to the
conflict in Libya".