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Peer says martyrdom of 21 Christians in Libya must never be forgotten as he speaks out against persecution of religious minorities

by Kelly Valencia

Lord Alton of Liverpool has said the deaths of 21 Christians who ISIS executed in 2015 for refusing to renounce their faith, demands a "better response" from the world to the ongoing persecution of religious minorities. 

He was speaking as part of an online event for Contemporary Martyrs Day. It's marked annually by the Coptic Orthodox Church to commemorate the anniversary of the 21 martyrs in Libya in February each year. 

It has also been established to remember members of the Coptic Orthodox Church who have lost their lives in contemporary history as a result of religious persecution.

In February 2015, 21 men were beheaded by ISIS in Libya. 20 of them were Coptic Christians from Egypt while the other Martyr named Matthew Ayariga was a Christian from Nigeria. 

Lord Alton said: "We should certainly try to forgive but not to forget," he said. "Forgiving and remembering is very different from Jihadist calls to revenge and the promotion of an ideology based on the hatred of difference."
He added that while forgiveness is important, those responsible should be held accountable. 

Paying special tribute to Matthew Ayariga, who chose to die with his Egyptian brothers, Lord Alton said Ayariga "stands as a rebuke to us all who remain silent in the face of the persecution of 250 million Christians worldwide".

"His act of extraordinary solidarity shames so many of us when we consider our tepid response - often based on political expediency, institutional considerations, or trade and business - to the persecution which is experienced by religious and ethnic groups the world over - discrimination that morphs into persecution; then persecution which morphs into crimes against humanity; and then ultimately into the crime above all crimes, genocide," he concluded.

The Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Fiona Bruce, the Bishop of Truro, Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Reverend Justin Welby also took part in the event. 

You can watch the event here.  

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