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16 February 2015

'Beheading of Christians is clearest indication yet of religious cleansing'

'Beheading of Christians is clearest indication yet of religious cleansing'

Faith leaders have condemned the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians as the "clearest indication yet of the policy of brutal religious cleansing" by the Islamic State.

Release International, Evangelical Alliance member and partner of the Religious Liberty Commission, has spoken against the video release by Libyan jihadists loyal to the Islamic State, which shows 21 Christians being beheaded on a beach.

The victims are thought to be labourers kidnapped in two separate attacks around the new year in the Libyan coastal town of Sirte.

Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release, said the charity's thoughts were with the family of those who were murdered.

"Those they loved were kidnapped and slaughtered simply because of their Christian faith.

"This is the clearest evidence yet of the brutal religious cleansing of Christians by Islamist militants. The message of this propaganda video could not be more plain."

An Islamic State fighter can be heard pledging to fight the "Crusaders until Jesus returns at the end of days" in the video.

The video also promises to capture Rome –seen as the foremost symbol of Christianity in Europe by IS.

The cover of the October edition of the Islamic State magazine, Dabiq, depictsan Islamic State flag flying over the Vatican.

A writer explains: "Rome in the Arabic tongue of the Prophet refers to the Christians of Europe. Indeed, Allah will grant the Muslims the conquest of Rome. We fight here, while our goal is Rome.

"We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted.

"If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market."

Further terror attacks took place in Nigeria, with Boko Haram killing more Nigerians in this latest offensive.

Last month, Amnesty International estimated 2,000 Christians were killed by the extremist group.

In Europe this weekend two men were shot dead and five injured in attacks on a free speech debate and a synagogue.

The Archbishop of Canterbury reflected on the violent weekend, saying: "The terrible cruelty of the murders in Denmark, Libya and Nigeria call for deep compassion for the bereaved and killed."

The Most Rev Justin Welby commented that the killers "seem to rejoice in ever more extreme acts carried out to inflict ever greater terror".

"We must all weep with those affected, and know that in the love of Christ all evil will be overcome.

"In Egypt and Libya, the home of Christian faith, of saints and martyrs since the earliest centuries, more suffering has been perpetrated. The Coptic Church has responded with courage and as always with faith."

The Archbishop continued: "The darkness which ISIS seek to spread will be overwhelmed by the faithful lives of Christians shedding the light and peace of Christ. I have been in touch with the Anglican Church in Egypt to express solidarity.

"Let us pray for the triumphant peace of Christ to be evident, and for governments affected to be wise and courageous."