I don’t know about you, but for me there are certain “things” that kind of stick themselves to my recall, my brain. I can’t get rid of them and they rise in my consciousness over and over until I “do something” with them! This piece has one of those as its subject. The incident happened in February 2015 and it’s still in my face as much as it ever was. I’m all about the moment in the spiritual life and have worked at recognizing those “God shots” when they happen rather than having an ah-ha moment weeks later. Sometimes that works! Today is the twenty-first day of Lent!
The story was reported world-wide and people clamored to see the on-line video and join together to be shocked and appalled! Not me. I’m the one who would not enter the Colosseum in Rome because this was the location where so many were murdered and so much blood soaked the ground. I am referring to the savage beheading murders of 21 on the edge of the Mediterranean by the infidels of ISIS. No need to subject my spirit to that view, the story was more than enough.
I was disappointed, but not surprised, that virtually every news outlet that had any kind of coverage of this story went right for the jugular, the violence, the demonic action of ISIS. For me, though, this story read like a book of the bible complete with symbolism, unspoken images and a mega spiritual challenge. First of all, the symbolic. It was no mistake that ISIS took those hostages to the edge of the Mediterranean. They sent a clear message that the blood of the victims would spill into the exact same body of water that Bin Laden was buried in. Next, the image was what they desired to burn into the Western conscious. They were hoping that the terror would linger. Last, ISIS was too dumb or inept to hide or delete the most powerful and hopeful element of the story that changes everything if you were not distracted by the violence.
The heroes who were killed were COPTS, twenty Coptic Christians. Coptic Christians are from the Eastern branch of our faith. They hail from Egypt and belong to a branch of the Church that St. Mark himself established around 49 A.D. These guys contracted to Libya to earn a living for family knowing it would be dangerous. Before each man was killed the captors boldly demanded to know if he would apostate to Islam and thus be saved and safe! We know that each man declared openly his status as Christian and refused to abandon his faith. That’s a powerful image in itself. What if you were ten or fifteen knowing full well that the same gruesome fate that you have been watching with your own eyes would befall you in just minutes? The lie of safety and the heartbreak of denying the True God did not entice any of them.
What about twenty-one? Victim twenty-one was a man named Mathew Ayairga. He was not of the same ethnicity as the first twenty victims. Mathew was an African from Chad and worked on the same team as the rest of the victims. He was a clearly declared non-Christian. When it was his turn to face the terrorists, they asked if he rejected Jesus? When push came to shove, his answer was: “Their God is my God.” Courage, witness, beatific vision, the Good Thief, Paradise. More images that stir and prick our soul. Once again God shows us that for him it is never too late. But, would you have the bravery to be twenty-one? How’s that for a Lenten consideration?
Copyright© 2017, Kathryn M. Cunningham