Taking a Stand Against Intolerance

Montreal Vigil Remembers Executed Egyptians by ISIL

  • A candlelight vigil in Montreal honored the 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians that were beheaded by ISIL militants on Feb. 15 in Libya. Photo Laura Lalonde

  • A candlelight vigil in Montreal honored the 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians that were beheaded by ISIL militants on Feb. 15 in Libya. Photo Laura Lalonde

  • A candlelight vigil in Montreal honored the 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians that were beheaded by ISIL militants on Feb. 15 in Libya. Photo Laura Lalonde

Approximately 50 people gathered on Wednesday night to commemorate the lives of the 21 Egyptian victims of Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) at McGill University Wednesday night.

The candlelight vigil honored the 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians that were beheaded by ISIL militants on Feb. 15 in Libya.

Antonious Petro, an Egyptian from a family of the Coptic religious minority, says he felt compelled to organize an event.

“[Minorities] don’t necessarily have the media or popularity to organize a march or a vigil.”

But co-organiser Gabrielle Anctil, a McGill student, says while the vigil last night was about a certain event, the message was much broader. The vigil addressed discrimination and attacks around the world based on “culture, religion or race.”

“I think it’s very important to bring attention to the fact that there are other hurts in the world, others are not as lucky and we should be aware of our privilege,” she said.

Most of the men killed came from poor villages and moved to the region of Derna in Libya to find work in the oil industry. Because they were killed for their faith, the Coptic Church has made the victims martyrs.

“They died because of their beliefs, but they went to Libya to survive and find work,” Petro said during his speech.

“I think it’s very important to bring attention to the fact that there are other hurts in the world, others are not as lucky and we should be aware of our privilege.” — Gabrielle Anctil, organizer

A video was released on Feb. 15. “This filthy blood is just some of what awaits you, in revenge for Camelia and her sisters,” were the words that appeared on screen after the hostages were beheaded. The message referenced the alleged kidnapping of Muslim women by the Coptic Church of Egypt.

At the very end, one killer declares, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.”

Nairy Simonian, an Egyptian-Armenian and Christian, came with her two daughters for “the souls of the victims” and to express a message of peace.

“As Christians we have forgiven them, for they know not what they do,” she said pointing at her youngest daughter holding an abstract of Matthew 5:11-13.

“I was so afraid, seeing the act itself,” Simonian said. “Imagine what they must have felt in that moment. ”

Simonian’s older daughter, Marina, says that unlike her mother, she couldn’t bring herself to watch the five-minute video.

“If I saw it, I think it would be more real in my head and I would just end up crying for nights,” she said.

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