by Jonathan Rashad
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Milad, cousin of slain laborers Gerges Samir, 20 and Malak Ibrahim, 25, who worked with them in Libya and witnessed their abduction by ISIS. “On the 28th of December 2014, we got a phone call from our friends informing us that they have been kidnapped – it was only 10 seconds. Later Gerges, Malak and I decided to go back to Egypt. A few days later Gerges and Malak were abducted by ISIS along with other 11 Egyptian Christians. That night, I heard gunmen stepping into their dormitory but I couldn’t do anything. I was unarmed. Gerges travelled all the way to Libya to be able to pay for his brother’s university. That is why his death was painful to his brothers more than any other person,” said Milad.
Bishop Botrous, uncle of slain laborer Mina Fayez, 23. “Our Orthodox church is a great church. Our church was build by the blood of martyrs. Throughout history, it has always brought heroes and martyrs to the world. I was shocked when I heard the news. But I was definitely happy for my nephew. He’s a martyr,” said Shehata.
Fifi, daughter of slain laborer Maged Shehata, 41. “My father died like a lion. He did not bow his head down. ISIS has no religion or mercy. I am now from the city of the martyrs. The city of the brave lions. May god forgive the killers. We don’t have hatred towards them – this is Christianity. God forgives the sinners, so shall we,” said Fifi.
Wife of slain laborer Maged Shehata, 41. She was not able to speak.
Ibrahim, brother of slain laborer Abanoub Ayiad, 24 “Abanoub needed money. He was not able to work Egypt. So, he traveled to Libya to find a job opportunity. We lived forty days of fear — hoping he would come back. He did not. He was slaughtered by ISIS. We want Sisi to destroy all the terrorists Egypt and Libya,” said Ibrahim.
Bishop Makar Essa Sawiris, 40 “The most thing that gave strength to the relatives here was the scenes they saw that impressed that whole world of the victims being brave. It was a sign of martyrdom. These martyrs were chosen by God to go to heaven and inspire the whole world. They raised our heads up high.”
Zeez, mother of slain laborers Samuel Istafanous, 21 and Beshoy Istafanous, 23 “Samuel and Beshoy called me one day before they were abducted and asked me to cook their favorite food. They were planning to get back to Egypt. Each one of them went to Libya once he finished his military service in Egypt,” said Zeez.
Magda, wife of slain laborer Hany Abdel-Messih, 32 “My husband is in heaven. He’s now with Jesus Christ. Before he went to Libya, he used to go to church on a daily basis. We lost him. We lost his love. We did not deserve him. He was an angel,” said Magda.
Citizens of Al-Aour village and relatives of slain laborers chant at Al-Aour church. Portraits of the victims can be seen in the center.
Jonathan Rashad is a self-taught documentary photographer who grew up in Cairo and started his career in 2008. He has covered events in Egypt as they have unfolded over the past few years. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanRashad