Shortly before he was beheaded by Islamic State fighters, an Egyptian Christian man asked his wife to ensure their children were taught the "principles of Jesus Christ."
During a recent hearing on ISIS and religious minorities held by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, lawyer and humanitarian Jacqueline Isaac shared the story of the father, who was one of the 21 Coptic Christian workers beheaded on a beach in Libya last year after being captured by ISIS.
Before leaving for Libya, he told his wife he knew it was dangerous and that if he did not make it back alive, to please teach their children "the principles of Jesus Christ," she recounted.
"I went to Egypt and I met the families, 15 of the 21 families that had victims that were slaughtered in Libya. I was astonished by their faith," she said, CNS reports. "As a fellow Christian, I thought, how would I be if I were in this situation today? Meeting the fathers that said to me, 'Thank God that today [my sons] they are in Heaven. Thank God.'"
"These are the accounts of their faith," she continued. "And I've seen it in Iraq across the board how Christians are standing strong and helping all, [and] helping the Yazidis."
She shared how, despite opposition and ongoing persecution, local Christians continue to spread the Gospel with those around them: "I remember there was a group of Yazidis that found a local [Christian] church and the church was providing care for them, providing a home for them," Isaac said. "This is what they're doing. They're struggling but they're giving everything they have. So, thank you."
In February 2015, ISIS released a video of the beheadings, titled "A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross." The video also showed the victims' refusal to recant their faith and convert to Islam, and showed some of the Christians making their last prayers.
As they were about to be decapitated, they all cried in unison "Ya Rabbi Yasou," which Christian experts have translated to "O my Lord Jesus."
"In other words, they were given the option to convert or die and every one of them refused, even unto death," terrorism expert and author Walid Shoebat said.
Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II officially registered the 21 Copts in the Synaxarium, the book of the martyrs of the Coptic Church, and established their memory to be celebrated on Feb. 15
In March, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.
"In my judgment Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in territory under its control" Kerry said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. "Daesh is genocidal by self-acclimation, by ideology and by practice."
Saying that he was "neither judge nor prosecutor nor jury," Kerry added that any potential criminal charges against the extremists must result from an independent international investigation and asserted that the U.S. would continue to support efforts to collect evidence and document atrocities.
However, the Secretary of State said he hoped that Christians suffering in the Middle East would take some comfort in the fact that the "the United States recognizes and confirms the despicable nature of the crimes committed against them."
In April, the British House of Commons voted unanimously to declare the actions by ISIS/Daesh as genocide, despite the opposition of then Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party administration.