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On Feb.15, 2015, 21 men were executed by the terrorist group ISIS on a Libyan beach. Dressed in orange jumpsuits, the migrant workers—Egyptians, except for one, a Ghanaian, and each a Coptic Christian—were beheaded by men shrouded in black. The scene was a carefully choreographed production, videotaped as a vile work of art, according to author Martin Mosebach, and transmitted online to spread terror worldwide.

In 2017, Mosebach travelled to Egypt to meet the families of the murdered men, by then proclaimed martyrs by the Coptic church. He discovered that since their births in the same village, the men’s lives had been shaped by the Coptic church—also known as the church of the martyrs. Having grown up in a country where Copts were a persecuted minority, the men understood the earthly disadvantages of their faith. Yet, Mosebach maintains, “life itself, without faith, would have been worthless to them.”

Mosebach’s enlightening, stimulating book, peppered with profound questions, is more than a report of his journey to Egypt. It’s also an exploration of the history of the Coptic church, the place of icons in worship, the impact of the Coptic liturgy, the daily struggle of poor Copts, and the relationship between the church and the government.

Especially significant are Mosebach’s reflections on the perseverance of Coptic Christians in the face of persecution in contrast to the decline of Christianity in the Western world as prosperity increased and oppression decreased. The 21 is a powerful testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit, not only in the lives of the murdered men, martyrs for their faith, but in the Coptic church throughout history. (Plough Publishing House)

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