In light of the 21 people who were beheaded by ISIS militants in Libya, Coptic Christians in the United States donned orange jumpsuits and marched in protest from the White House to Capitol Hill in hopes that the U.S. government would take more aggressive measures against Islamist groups, including ISIS, Boko Haram and the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to Pamela Constable of the Washington Post, about 50 demonstrators marched in protest on Tuesday in Washington. One of those protesters included 29-year-old Hanna Asaad, a Coptic Christian whose best friend and cousin, Samuel Alham, was one of the people beheaded by ISIS.
"I kept calling my cousin and telling him he had to leave Libya, but there was no safe way out," Asaad said. "The militants came looking for Christians and then took them away. They murdered my cousin, my nephew and my classmates."
Asaad warned that ISIS one day could "start murdering people in this country." Constable reported that although he was able to immigrate to the United States and work as a network engineer in Fairfax, Va., his cousin, who came from the same impoverished region in Egypt, sought work as a laborer in Libya.
Constable reported that the protesters wore orange jumpsuits and stood outside the White House, kneeling "with their hands behind their backs." Other demonstrators held up photographs that showed both the victims and the blood-soaked waves on the beach where the beheading took place.
"Obama, Obama, did you see? Christian blood in the sea," the other protesters chanted.
According to the Washington Post, the Coptic Christians who lived in Washington and across the United States were composed mostly of educated, professional émigrés. However, many of them remained "deeply engaged in Egyptian politics."
"The seaside slaughter was an especially horrific incident in a history of increasing persecution that the Christian minority group has faced in its native Egypt," Constable wrote. "Recent attacks included the bombing of a church on New Year's Day, 2011, in the city of Alexandria, which left 21 worshippers dead and 79 injured."
Asaad told the Washington Post that ISIS knew how to distinguish the Christians from other people in the region. That's because most Copts have a small tattooed cross on their wrist, which is usually given to newborns in a traditional Coptic ritual.
"They believe that anyone who is not a Muslim, who is not a believer, must be killed," Asaad said. "They went looking for Christians and they identified them by their crosses."
Asaad added that the cross was a symbol of "our identity," noting that this was how ISIS "killed my cousin."
According to Constable, another protester, 70-year-old Atef Jacob, hoped that President Barack Obama would do more to help Christians and other minorities persecuted by ISIS in the Middle East before it was too late.
"ISIS wants to drive all Christians from the Middle East," the engineer and Coptic immigrant said. "Obama has to act before the whole region turns to fire."