Group working to help 100 relatives of Christian martyrs visit Holy Land
A Christian organization is working to fulfill the wishes of 100 family members of 21 Egyptian martyrs murdered by the Islamic State terrorist group by providing them with a trip to the Holy Land next year.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Robert Nicholson, president and executive director of The Philos Project, said that one of its goals is to provide families with a spiritual experience after the sacrifice of their loved ones. Another goal is to help Christian communities in Egypt.
As The Christian Post reported in February 2015, ISIS-affiliated militants beheaded 21 men on a beach in Libya. Twenty of the men murdered for their faith were Christians.
The idea for the project came during a 2019 trip to Egypt with Christian leaders to investigate the discrimination and persecution faced by Christians in the region. The group spent the trip meeting with religious leaders from the Coptic Orthodox Church and Coptic Catholic Church, in addition to members of the Egyptian government.
While visiting Minya, a city in Egypt where most of those martyred came from, Nicholson asked a friend guiding the group on the trip whether it would be possible to meet the victims’ families. A few days later, at the Church of the Martyrs of Faith and Homeland, which was built to commemorate the men who were murdered because of their faith, Nicholson and his delegation met with the victims’ families.
At one point, a priest, whom the Philos Project president assumes must have been familiar with the group’s work, asked if Nicholson could fulfill these families’ wishes by taking them to Israel.
The Philos Project president agreed. Initially, the group planned to bring the families to Jerusalem in October 2019. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns delayed the trip, with the Philos Project planning to take the families to the Holy Land by next Christmas.
“That's the goal, is to bring 100 kids and parents, all the different relatives, and to give them this experience that they've all been wanting and try to make it as transformative and meaningful as we possibly can,” Nicholson said.
The group has already raised $20,000 to fund the trip, with donations primarily coming from individuals and families who support the endeavor. The Philos Project also has a page on its website inviting people to donate, if they so choose. The cost to take 100 people to the Holy Land is expected to be around $300,000, according to the organization’s president.
Nicholson noted that The Philos Project has done much for Christians in the Middle East by sending humanitarian aid and advocating for them; there is a need to make these communities “stronger, more sustainable.”
“And so, we want to do something a little different with this, which is to send a spiritual message, an emotional message, a moral message of hope,” he told CP.
Nicholson said one of the most important messages to send Christians in the region is that the faith is “one of resurrection.”
“We are a people, a resurrected community, and there is hope, even when the math doesn't seem to be working in our favor,” the Philos Project president said. “Even when objectively things are going bad, there's hope, there's comfort.”
The group is also working with the Egyptian government to bring the families to Israel, and Nicholson hopes that the government realizes that it’s good for the country when Christians are “safe, secure and strong.”
According to Open Doors, an organization that monitors Christian oppression worldwide, the persecution level in Egypt is “very high.” Egypt is ranked No. 20 on the organization’s list of countries where Christians face persecution, with people of faith facing violence and obstruction when seeking to build new churches or to stop the destruction of established church buildings.
Nicholson hopes that by bringing the families to the Holy Land, Christians in the West will pay attention to the hardships their brothers and sisters in Christ routinely face overseas.
“It's a reminder to be humble and to be grateful and then reverent and respectful for these Eastern churches that are so easily forgotten in this 21st century world,” he said.
Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: email@example.com. Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman