Libya: Coptic Christian brothers 'targeted and killed' for their faith

Coptic Christians in Libya are afraid for their lives following the murder of two Egyptian brothers earlier this month.

The bodies of Wasfy Bakhit Gad Mikhail, 37, and his brother Fahmy, 27, were found on November 13 near Al Khums, western Libya. Medical professionals determined that they had been killed on November 12 by gunshots to the head.

According to their other brother, Sabry, who lived with the pair in Misrata, the trio had travelled to Libya to work as construction labourers and send money home to their families.

Wasfy and Fahmy had responded to a request about building a concrete roof on November 6. They were picked up by a man who was supposed to take them to the location, but did not return home.

Sabry identified the bodies on November 16, and told International Christian Concern (ICC) that according to the hospital, when the bodies arrived "there were black gloves in their hands with Islamic phrases on them".

ICC said that there are militants loyal to Islamic State operating in Libya, where the jihadist group is said to be tightening its grip. Earlier this year, 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded in Libya by ISIS, which led to Egypt conducting air strikes on its neighbouring country. Libya's proximity to Europe is believed to be one of its major attractions to militants.

A funeral service was held for the brothers in their home village of Awlad Ali in Egypt last Wednesday. Their church believes they were martyred for their faith.

"They were targeted and killed because they are Christians," Father Sulaiman Botros, who led the service, told ICC.

"They kept the faith and refused to deny the Lord Jesus Christ. They are our church's martyrs. We are proud of them. They aren't dead but have been saved by God in Heaven.

"They have entered into glory and there are in a better place than all of us. They've got their crown in heaven and they are with Jesus now, no more pain for them, only joy and peace."

Another Coptic Christian working in Misrata told ICC that those still in Libya are now living in fear. "After the killing of the two Christian brothers, we are afraid to go out to work, and there is a situation of fear among all of us," he said.

Following the murder of the 21 Coptic Christians in February, a number of relatives of those killed expressed thanks for their unwavering faith, even in the face of death. According to a video released by ISIS, the last words of some of those killed were "Lord Jesus Christ".

In the wake of this revelation, it was said that their martyrdom had strengthened and energised the Church.

"Persecution is part of the life of the Church. The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church," said Coptic-Catholic Bishop Youssef Aboul-Kheir of Sohag, Egypt.

"In Europe the Church is free. We, on the other hand, are faced with many obstacles. But which Church is the stronger?"