Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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Were the youth that were killed during the bombing at the Alexandrian church, or in any other church during a terrorist attack, automatically considered martyrs? In other words, if one is killed when he is not "actively" resisting attacks against Christianity (e.g., innocent bystander randomly injured in the crossfire during an attack), does he/she qualify as a martyr? I know the reflex answer is "yes," but I (and the youth that I was discussing this with) can not quite grasp the idea that a person who was the victim of collateral damage wears the same crown as does St. Stephen, etc.

Only God can determine the inner heart of anyone and will compensate each one with righteous judgment. We do acknowledge that even the bystanders are counted amongst the martyrs because of their solidarity in faith at that moment. By making a decision to attend the Divine Liturgy or any other church services, you are confessing your faith and values in this decision. Thus, in the spirit of that solidarity, we recognize those individuals as martyrs. God allowed their Christian blood to be shed in His great name. They did not have to be subjected to the horrendous tortures like many of the known martyrs and their declaration of faith did not need to be with the same boldness. The only reason the lives of some of these contemporary martyrs was cut short is because they were Christian or were attending a Christian service. If, for example, a group of Christians were at a night club and a bomb exploded, these would not be considered martyrs. However, since the only reason for the assault on these contemporary martyrs was because they were recognized as Christian, then they are considered martyrs because for the sake of Christ, they were assaulted. Only God will judge and compensate to each one according to his/her deeds.

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