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The 21: A Journey into the Land of Coptic…
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The 21: A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs

by Martin Mosebach

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7427261,636 (3.88)1
Behind a gruesome ISIS beheading video lies the untold story of the men in orange and the faith community that formed these unlikely modern-day saints and heroes. In a carefully choreographed propaganda video released in February 2015, ISIS militants behead twenty-one orange-clad Christian men on a Libyan beach. In the West, daily reports of new atrocities may have displaced the memory of this particularly vile event. But not in the world from which the murdered came. All but one were young Coptic Christian migrant workers from Egypt. Acclaimed literary writer Martin Mosebach traveled to the Egyptian village of El-Aour to meet their families and better understand the faith and culture that shaped such conviction. He finds himself welcomed into simple concrete homes through which swallows dart. Portraits of Jesus and Mary hang on the walls along with roughhewn shrines to now-famous loved ones. Mosebach is amazed time and again as, surrounded by children and goats, the bereaved replay the cruel propaganda video on an iPad. There is never any talk of revenge, but only the pride of having a martyr in the family, a saint in heaven. "The 21" appear on icons crowned like kings, celebrated even as their community grieves. A skeptical Westerner, Mosebach finds himself a stranger in this world in which everything is the reflection or fulfillment of biblical events, and facing persecution with courage is part of daily life. In twenty-one symbolic chapters, each preceded by a picture, Mosebach offers a travelogue of his encounter with a foreign culture and a church that has preserved the faith and liturgy of early Christianity - the "Church of the Martyrs." As a religious minority in Muslim Egypt, the Copts find themselves caught in a clash of civilizations. This book, then, is also an account of the spiritual life of an Arab country stretched between extremism and pluralism, between a rich biblical past and the shopping centers of New Cairo.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As the cover proclaims, this is “a journey into the land of Coptic martyrs.” On February 15, 2015, twenty-one young Egyptian men, ISIS captives, were marched onto a beach in Libya and beheaded. The video recording of that event went around the world. What was most striking was the dignity and faith they maintained until the end. The author sets out trying to learn about them, their home villages, and the faith that supported them. A bit philosophical for me, but I read it to pay my respects. ( )
  Vicki_Weisfeld | Apr 7, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have long had a mild fascination with the ancient, mysterious, Egyptian Coptic Church. Martin Mosebach has more than satisfied this curiosity in his short study of its latest martyrs, The 21.
Mosebach begins the book with a description of the video of the beheadings of these 21 men by Islamic State fanatics on a beach in Libya in 2015. I thought I wouldn't be able to read further, but one chapter suffices to tell the reader what happened.
The rest of the book is devoted to the present state of the Coptic people, told with a German Christian's Western sensibilities. Two points emerge. These men (ranging in age from early 40s to early 20s) were ordinary members of their village church, yet able to die calmly with the name of Jesus on their lips. The Coptic Church itself has remained what it was from its inception, not influenced by the changes in either the Roman Catholic tradition nor that of the Orthodox.
Mosebach visits the families of the 21 as well as Coptic monasteries, and reports with thoughtful commentary on what he sees. I was moved by the picture of each martyr (including the Ghanian Matthew) which precedes each of the twenty one chapters.
Thanks to Early Reviewers for an opportunity to read this book, which would not have come my way otherwise. ( )
  LizzieD | Mar 28, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book free for an honest review.

This was an interesting book. I thought I was going to be reading about the men who were captured, tortured, and ultimately beheaded by Islamic terrorists because they were Christians. The book was split into 21 different chapters, with a picture of each man at the beginning. Unfortunately, there is not much to learn about the individuals. Only one chapter is dedicated to the time spent with the families of some of the men. The other 20 chapters discuss various aspects of the Coptic church, daily life in Upper Egypt, and philosophical thoughts and hypothetical arguments.

Overall, I am not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I was frequently disappointed. But, I did find the book informative, and mostly enjoyable.

My full review can be found here: http://www.theowlreads.com/2020/03/the-21-journey-into-land-of-coptic.html ( )
  theowlreads | Mar 23, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Martin Mosbacher gives a journalist's point of view into the world of the Coptic Church in Egypt. He tries to give an even handed view of what happened. The Coptic Church and its people have been persecuted for centuries. Faith pervades their lives. Faith gives them strength. Faith gives them peace. Theirs is an unique view of the world.
  bgknighton | Mar 18, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I rate this book 3.5 stars rounded down. It is the story of the Coptic religion/culture in Egypt and how 20 Coptic Christians were murdered by ISIS on the Libyan coast in Feb. 2015. ISIS filmed the beheading of 20 Coptic men and 1 African Christian and then posted this brutal, chilling video for the world to see. The author went to hometowns of the 20 Coptic martyrs and interviewed their family and friends to learn what motivated them to sacrifice themselves so willingly. I abhor fanaticism and the ISIS fanatics that murdered these 21 men are truly horrible people. The Coptic church has proclaimed the martyrs to be saints in the Coptic church.
The author is evidently a religious man and talks about them being with Jesus. I am not a religious person. although raised as a Roman Catholic. Fervent devotion to religion makes me uncomfortable, since it can lead to fanaticism enabling people to murder in the name of God. I was aware of Muslim persecution of Christians in Syria, Iraq and Egypt and wanted to find out more about the Coptic culture.
Pros: The book was very informative about the Coptic culture and religion. He describes in detail their churches and religious services. He also explains how the common people interact with priests. He interviewed the Coptic bishop in charge of the hometown of the martyrs. He also interviewed the Coptic Pope, who is not under the jurisdiction of the RC pope or the Eastern Orthodox patriarch in Greece. The author explains in clear language how the Coptic church split form those churches in the 4th century AD. If you are interested in the history of these religions, you will enjoy this book. The translation was excellent.
Cons: The book was overly religious for my taste. If you are a devout Christian, you will probably like this book. It took me almost 3 weeks to read this book.
Some quotes: "The faces of the prisoners clearly show that these young peasants could influence neither the American government nor any other, let alone their own. Their patience, their stoic dignity, and their prayers make them seem poor choices for casting as representatives of evil."
"We Copts are the real, true Egyptians. This has been our land for many thousands of years--it was our land long before the pyramids were built."
"The ancient Coptic language developed under Hellenistic rule but was essentially the language of the Pharaohs, and to this day it is used in the liturgy. In other words, the Pharaohs' language lives on in the Coptic liturgy."
Thanks to Plough Publishing House for sending me this paperback through LibraryThing. ( )
  tom471 | Mar 17, 2020 |
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[Foreword] The world will never forget the image of those twenty-one men dressed in distinctive orange jumpsuits, paraded by their captors alon a beach in Libya.
The picture on the cover of a magazine drew me in: it showed the head of a young man, evidently of Mediterranean origin, surrounded by a bit of orange-colored fabric.
[Epilogue] Even as the diocletianic persecution raged on, a group of particularly determined Christians had begun coming together in Egypt to seek martyrdom.
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