Call this a contrast of leadership. In a meeting today with a delegation from the Church of Scotland, who traveled to the Vatican on an ecumenical visit, Pope Francis decried the slaughter of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt by Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Speaking in his native Spanish, the pontiff used the ecumenical audience of Presbyterians to declare that the Copts were martyred for their faith — the faith of all Christians. They died “only because they confessed Christ,” Pope Francis emphasized, and their “testimony cries out to be heard”:
I would now like to turn to my native tongue to express feelings of profound sorrow. Today I read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians. Their only words were: “Jesus, help me!”. They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians. You, my brother, in your words referred to what is happening in the land of Jesus. The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ. As we recall these brothers and sisters who died only because they confessed Christ, I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.
Now, the point that the 21 men were beheaded for their faith isn’t exactly a subtlety in the ISIS propaganda video. The video title calls it “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” After beheading the Coptic Christian hostages, the Islamist terror leader threatens to “conquer Rome”:
After the ISIS leader finishes speaking, his fellow terrorists then commence the beheading of the 21 Egyptian Christians. “And we will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our Prophet, peace be upon him,” The militant leader says after his comrades slaughter the Christian hostages.
Get the point? Most did, but not so much the White House. In the statement released yesterday after the video emerged, the Obama administration declared its outrage over the murder of … “Egyptian citizens” (via Charlie Spiering and Jeryl Bier, emphases mine):
The United States condemns the despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists. We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and our support to the Egyptian government and people as they grieve for their fellow citizens. ISIL’s barbarity knows no bounds. It is unconstrained by faith, sect, or ethnicity. This wanton killing of innocents is just the most recent of the many vicious acts perpetrated by ISIL-affiliated terrorists against the people of the region, including the murders of dozens of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai, which only further galvanizes the international community to unite against ISIL.
This heinous act once again underscores the urgent need for a political resolution to the conflict in Libya, the continuation of which only benefits terrorist groups, including ISIL. We call on all Libyans to strongly reject this and all acts of terrorism and to unite in the face of this shared and growing threat. We continue to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bernardino Leon to facilitate formation of a national unity government and help foster a political solution in Libya.
“Egyptian citizens”? That odd phrasing shows just how hard the White House tried to avoid identifying them as Christians. Why not just “Egyptians”? It’s true that ISIS will kill pretty much anyone in the most horrible ways imaginable. It’s also true that this particular escalation had a distinct choice of faith and sect.
The White House couldn’t offer even a single instance of recognition about the victims slaughtered, even though they bravely met their fate without retreating from their faith. This may or may not be worse than the strange dance that the White House has been doing ever since Paris to avoid noting that victims in the Kosher deli there were targeted for their Jewish faith (“randomly selected”), but it’s cut from the exact same cloth of denial. It would appear that their ISIS-doesn’t-represent-Islam-but-today’s-Christians-own-the-Crusades narrative is a little more precious to Barack Obama and his team than in acknowledging the obvious — and paying at least momentary homage to the courage displayed by these Christians who called on Christ in their last moments.
Pope Francis is right — theirs is “testimony that cries out” to the world. Maybe the world will listen, eventually.
Update: John Hinderaker: “If you didn’t know better, you might think there is a pattern here.”
Update: The names of the martyrs:
— E+ (@Sr_eisodia) February 16, 2015
Update: The Anchoress asks for prayers for the martyrs — and the conversion of their butchers. May it be speedily achieved.