The Coptic Orthodox Christian Club held a candlelight vigil last Wednesday night for the 21 Egyptian Christians who were beheaded by ISIS.
Approximately 200 students and members of the Coptic community gathered at the flagpoles to pay their respects for the victims. Videos of the killings surfaced on Twitter on Sunday, Feb. 15.
Karen Mikhael, president of the Coptic student organization, said the video was very triggering for members of her community.
“I know a lot of people who watched it threw up,” said Mikhael. “It was not pleasant to watch it.”
Mikhael said that although the killings happened to Christians, the event was open to anyone who wanted to pay their respects.
“It definitely touched our hearts,” Mikhael said, referring to the outpour of support from the campus community.
Alumni member Ragy Stefan also expressed that the vigil was not simply a religious gathering.
“We tried really hard not to make this about religion because it’s not,” said Stefan. “It’s about humanity. It’s just sad to see. It’s not just killing, it’s not just brutal, it’s inhumane and it really blurs the line to what is human and what is not.”
Speaking at the vigil was Father Gregory Bishay from the Church of St. Verena and the Three Holy Youth Coptic Orthodox Church.
Attendees were encouraged to speak. Students, adults and children all spoke common themes about love and forgiveness. They sang the spiritual songs “My Coptic Church” and “Of All Nations.”
The video of the beheadings has been huge shock to the Coptic community. Helary Yakub, a first-year student, struggled to comprehend the motivations of the killers.
“I was confused. I just don’t understand how someone can have the audacity to do something like that. I just, I can’t comprehend the amount of evil that someone has to have in order to do such an act,” Yakub said.
Although he admitted that letting go of anger is difficult, Father Bishay emphasized that forgiveness is crucial to moving on.
“In order to give us the feelings of relief that makes a human be peaceful and sleep good at night, the human is designed better to have peace than to have anger,” he said.
Father Bishay, as well members of the crowd, prayed for the ISIS killers, in the hopes that ISIS will one day stop their acts of murder and change their ways.
“It’s a very therapeutic feeling, getting rid of anger by doing something good to the enemy. We don’t know it, but because we are in the image of God, humans feel better when they have peace than when they have anger,” Father Bishay said.
The Coptic Club also created a fundraiser online for the families of the victims. The fundraiser is currently selling T-shirts with the 21 names of the victims on the back. All profits made from the fundraiser will go to the families of the victims through CopticWorld, an online global Coptic community.
The vigil ended after members of the club attended Tasbeha, their weekly midnight praise.
The Coptic Club meets weekly at HIB 110 for Tasbeha. All are welcome to attend their Bible studies.