VICTORVILLE — Jimmy Mettias said nothing has ever shaken him like when he heard the news that a group of militants claiming affiliation with ISIS had beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya.
Mettias, an attorney based out of Victorville, said as a “follower of Christ first, American citizen second and (with) Egyptian blood running through his veins third,” he cannot idly sit by as his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ suffer.
“This atrocity harkens back to the First Century when Christians were put to death in mass for their faith,” Mettias told the Daily Press. “I was born in the United States, but anyone of the 21 could have been me or anyone of my friends. We are blessed to be here in the U.S. where we are protected.”
Led by the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, religious leaders from across the nation were asked to use Saturday and Sunday to lead congregations and individuals in a minute of silence, and a time of prayer and reflection for the grieving families of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians killed in North Africa.
According to the Associated Press, many of the Egyptians killed on Feb. 15 in Libya were poor fishermen who had traveled there in hopes of earning money.
Sam Malek, 42, who attends St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in Victorville, said the congregation has been praying for the families of the slain and all those persecuted in the Middle East and all over the world.
“Coptic communities had a big missive and we have all been praying,” Malek said. “The Los Angeles Diocese also organized a large event to help the families of those killed. We will continue to lift the families in prayer.”
Mettias, who attends an Arabic Church in Rancho Cucamonga, said he wants to lay out a plan of action for anyone who has a burden to stand up and defend those that are oppressed.
His plan includes fervent and urgent prayer by the body of Christ in the U.S., specific days of fasting and prayer for Arab Christians of all ages in the U.S. and a relentless pursuit of action by the U.S. government against ISIS and other oppressive groups.
“We need to make our voices heard here in the U.S. so that our leaders act to protect the believers in Iraq, Syria and Libya that have no one advocating on their behalf,” Mettias said. “We must also do fundraising aimed at providing aid and resources to the persecuted churches in the Middle East in a relevant and practical manner.”
Mettias said Christians must also follow Christ’s lead by praying for ISIS “just as our Lord commanded us.” Mettias said he plans on setting up a task force to implement his action plan.
Hesperia resident Bob Chandler said that even though he’s a non-Egyptian, the 21 slain were his “brothers in Christ,” and that his support and prayers are with their families.
“The Bible clearly states that we, who are in Christ, are to love one another,” Chandler said. “Despite where each one of us lives, whatever color skin that we’re shackled with or what language we speak, we still remain as brothers and sisters in Christ. And we are called upon by God to love one another.”
Joseph Saleh, a businessman from Hesperia who works in Orange Country, said his family in Egypt has been on edge ever since his “fellow countrymen were butchered.”
“With every passing year, oppression against Christians has deepened in Egypt,” said Saleh, who attends several Coptic churches including Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church in Santa Ana. “We are family by the Lord and not just by birth. We must pray for all our brothers and sisters who are facing oppression and even martyrdom.”
Mettias said he recently met with the founder of AlKarma TV in Orange County to brainstorm some programming ideas to reach the Muslim population.
“We have an idea of encouraging believers under persecution and reaching the Muslim population with vital information,” Mettias said. “Many of them don’t know what people are doing in the name of their own religion.”
AKTV has two different channels broadcasting 24 hours and reaching Muslim and Christian Arabic speakers around the world, according to the station’s website.
Mettias said the mainstream media’s deliberate omission of the word “Christian,” in reference to the 21 who were killed, “streams down from White House, which doesn’t want to make this a radical Islam agenda, but to focus purely on politics.”
“Some people say that if we gave these people jobs, they would not commit these acts of violence,” Mettias said. “The reality is that the average American doesn’t understand what they are facing. Killing the 21 was a clear message from ISIS to the people of the cross.”
Saleh echoed Mettias’ message, saying that Christianity is ISIS’s biggest obstacle as it attempts to expand its influence.
Mettias said the message of ISIS is that Christianity must be defeated in order for the Caliphate (successor) to take power as the political leader of the Islamic community. Once the Caliphate is in place, ISIS would attempt to establish itself as the leader of a worldwide Muslim movement.
“With Christians out of the picture, as well as other opponents of ISIS, the group can take control of more land,” Mettias said.
Mettias said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is responding appropriately to the deaths of the 21, but said the White House needs to admit that a “terrorist organization is the root of the problem.”
“We’re still waiting for our government to respond in that manner,” Mettias said. “Until then, we must intercede for those being persecuted.”