13 March 2019, The Tablet

Lots of Coptic clergy were rubbing shoulders with members of the Bruderhof

Lots of Coptic clergy were rubbing shoulders with members of the Bruderhof

There are times when I feel very very small – I mean, even more than usual – spiritually speaking, and one of them was at a book launch. It wasn’t any old book launch, but a reception the other week to mark the publication of an extraordinary book, The 21: A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs, by Martin Mosebach (Plough Publishing), about the kidnap and beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by IS in 2015, when they were working in Libya. It was an extraordinary reception, hosted by Lambeth Palace for a Catholic author, with lots of Coptic clergy rubbing shoulders with members of the Bruderhof, the Anabaptist community behind Plough.

Mosebach’s book was based on his visit to El-Aour, the Egyptian village from which all but one of the men had come. The families of the men, he told me, were naturally proud of their martyrs. What’s more, they told him that after their capture by IS, they hadn’t prayed for their escape but that they would hold firm to their faith in persecution. I nearly dropped my canapé. This was fortitude of an early Christian kind, of the sort I used to read about in Joan Windham’s terrific little saints’ books, in which mothers would urge their children to be brave under torture.

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