Islamic militants murdered 21 Egyptian Christians on a beach in Libya in 2015. The gruesome video of the beheadings elicited outrage around the world. Now a Christian organization wants to fulfill the wishes of 100 of their family members by providing them a trip to the Holyland.
Robert Nicholson, president and executive director of the Philos Project, says that one of its goals is to provide families with a spiritual experience after the sacrifice of their loved ones. Another goal is to help Christian communities in Egypt.
The idea for the project came during a 2019 trip to Egypt with Christian leaders to investigate the discrimination and persecution faced by Christians in the region. The group spent the trip meeting with religious leaders from the Coptic Orthodox Church and Coptic Catholic Church, in addition to members of the Egyptian government.
While visiting Minya, a city in Egypt where most of those martyred came from, Nicholson asked a friend guiding the group on the trip whether it would be possible to meet the victims’ families. A few days later, at the Church of the Martyrs of Faith and Homeland, which was built to commemorate the men who were murdered because of their faith, Nicholson and his delegation met with the victims’ families. At one point, a priest, whom the Philos Project president assumes must have been familiar with the group’s work, asked if Nicholson could fulfill these families’ wishes by taking them to Israel.
“That’s the goal, to bring 100 kids and parents, all the different relatives, and to give them this experience that they’ve all been wanting and try to make it as transformative and meaningful as we possibly can,” he said.
The group already has raised $20,000 to fund the trip, with donations coming primarily from individuals and families who support the endeavor. The Philos Project also has a page on its website inviting people to donate if they so choose. The cost to take 100 people to the Holy Land is expected to be around $300,000.
Nicholson hopes that by bringing the families to the Holy Land, Christians in the West will pay attention to the hardships their brothers and sisters in Christ routinely face overseas. “It’s a reminder to be humble and to be grateful and then reverent and respectful for these Eastern churches that are so easily forgotten in this 21st century world,” he said.
More information is available at www.philosproject.org.
–Dwight Widaman | MV