Who would ever have thought we’d see Christians killed for their faith in this day and age.
But of course out of the gaze of the mainstream media, it is well known Christians are the most persecuted people group on the planet.
Grainy Islamic State video released yesterday shows 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians in orange jumpsuits by the Mediterranean in Libya being brutally beheaded.
Their crime? They do not believe in the god of Islam or his prophet.
That is not a statement of disrespect. People should be free to believe or not to believe the truth claims of any religion.
That lack of freedom in many supposedly mainstream Islamic countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is taken to brutal lengths by Islamic State which now, apparently, has a provincial caliphate in Libya.
One of the leaders of Australia’s Coptic Church, Bishop Anba Suriel, told the Australian newspaper yesterday “we are a church of martyrs”.
Australian Christians have never known such horror. It is hard for us to comprehend.
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ACL's Lyle Shelton and Dan Flynn meeting with Bishop Suriel[/caption]
But now Bishop Suriel is calling on the Australian authorities to increase police patrols at Coptic churches here.
Last years’ Islamist-inspired attack on two policemen in Melbourne and the Sydney siege combined with police thwarting of several other planned terrorist attacks mean, sadly, that Bishop Suriel’s concerns are real.
The Egyptian Copts are of course some of the earliest Christians. Alexandria in Egypt, even more so than Rome in the early centuries after Christ, was in effect the spiritual and intellectual centre of Christendom.
It is from here the Copts trace their origins, centuries before Islam conquered North Africa by the sword.
Islamist persecution is a large reason why Australia has such a large and thriving Coptic church.
It is so important that we stand in solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. The rise of IS means the mainstream media is reporting Christian persecution.
We have no excuse in our comfortable western churches to turn a blind eye. That’s why it was great to see more than 700 churches last November participate in Solidary Sunday to raise awareness and pray.
This week the cricket World Cup has begun, hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
Pakistan is one of the participating nations.
As I wrote
in the Australian newspaper in January, that country’s judicial system has sentenced Asia Bibi, A Christian mother of five, to death by hanging for allegedly blaspheming Muhammad.
Pakistan may not parade people in orange jumpsuits before cutting their heads of, but by enforcing the death sentence against Christians it is no different to the Islamic State butchers.
We should consider this as we watch its national cricket team playing in our two nations.