The Martyr Heroes ISIS Gave Us

I gave a talk last night in Bendena, Kansas, about martyrs of the 21st century, starting with the Coptic Christians of Egypt and working backwards to some of those killed in the 9/11 attacks on America. Here is some of what I shared of the martyrs we learned about Feb. 15 in ISIS beheading video.


“A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” That’s what ISIS named their video of the destruction of Coptic Christians. That name was meant to make Christians look pathetic and weak.



The video depicts the 21 prisoners in orange jumpsuits accompanied by 21 ISIS fighters, who  digitally manipulated themselves to look larger and who were unwilling to show their faces and vowed to attack Rome.


People of the Cross

Many of the deceased were taken from a town called Al Alour, Egypt. Reporters have done invaluable services by collecting their stories and photos of their families: Sophia Jones at Huffington Post, Ian Lee and Jethro Mullen at CNN, also Vice news and The Islamic Monthly. Al Alour was an impoverished town, and the men who died were laborers.


Hani Abdel Messihah

Hani Abdel Messihah, 32, leaves behind four children — three girls and a boy — and a wife who remembered him as “gentle and kind.” “He took care of all of us. He gave us hugs and kisses,” she said. “There was a prayer in anything he said.” She is quoted in The Islamic Monthly saying: “Before he went to Libya, he used to go to church on a daily basis,” and “My husband is in heaven. He’s now with Jesus Christ.”


Fif daughter of Maged Shehata 41

Fifi, daughter of slain laborer Maged Shehata, 41, told The Islamic Monthly: “My father died like a lion. He did not bow his head down. ISIS has no religion or mercy. I am now from the city of the martyrs. The city of the brave lions. May God forgive the killers. We don’t have hatred towards them – this is Christianity. God forgives the sinners, so shall we.”

Abanoub Ayiad

The mother of 24-year old murdered laborer Abanoub Ayiad is quoted by Vice News. “He called me when his friends were abducted. He asked me to pray for him,” she said. “May God forgive ISIS for the pain and suffering we have been through. I gave the best gift to God. My son.”


Bishop Felobous

Bishop Felobous, who was related to five murdered laborers, told Vice News: “Their leaving is painful. But we are not sad. We are proud of our martyrs. I congratulate ISIS. God is using them to bring martyrs to the world. Everything happens for a reason. I was very sad when I heard the news of the air strikes lead by the Egyptian military against ISIS. God asks us to even love our enemies.”


George Samir cousin of Malak Ibrahim

The mother of 25-year-old slain laborer Malak Ibrahim (his cousin is shown), is quoted by Vice News: “I’m proud of my son. He did not change his faith until the last moment of death. I thank God. Malak is with his father now. Jesu is taking care of him.”


samuel abraham relative

The mother of 29-year-old slain laborer Samuel Abraham told Vice: “We thank ISIS. Now more people believe in Christianity because of them. ISIS showed what Christianity is. We thank God that our relatives are in heaven. He chose them.”


Milad Makin

The wife  of 26-year-old Milad Makin is quoted by Vice: “ISIS thought they would break our hearts. They did not. Milad is a hero now and an inspiration for the whole world. The heroic witness of the Egyptian martyrs is already having this effect.”


Shenouda Shokry

Yousef Shoukry’s brother Shenouda had a high opinion of his little brother, reported Jones. “He lived according to the book,” he said. “I can’t remember anything he did wrong.” He watched the video of his brother’s martyrdom. “I saw that he had strength in his last moments,” Shenouda said. Jones reports that the brother saw “a heavenly light shining on his brother’s face, even after he was decapitated.” “That consoled me,” Shenouda said.


Mina aziz

CNN reports that Mina Aziz’s brother Hana took solace in the video, too. (Jones’ picture of his wife is shown.) “To the last moment, the name of Jesus was on their lips,” he says. “As they were being martyred, they were calling God’s name, saying, ‘God, have mercy on us.’ The entire village is proud.”



ISIS announced the execution of 21 Copts but only 20 names were confirmed. Ahram-Canadian News was able to gather information about the additional man. He was from Chad (center, above). When the terrorist asked him to reject Jesus Christ as God, he looked at his Christian friends and said “Their God is my God,” and so was beheaded along with them.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.