Modern Martyrdom and Material Culture Examining the Martyrdom of the 21 Martyrs of Libya and the Coptic Narrative of Persecution

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Monica Ghebrial



Martyrdom has long been associated with the essence of the Coptic identity. The public execution of the 21 Martyrs of Libya in 2015 allowed for a rekindling of the Coptic narrative of persecution both locally and globally through digital and physical material culture. This movement occurred in the aftermath of decades of significant social and political change which redefined the structure of Egyptian society and the place of the Coptic minority within it. Digital material culture in the form of social media campaigns, an animation film and recorded interviews allow for a global audience and an international outcry from Copts around the globe, creating a new sense of unity in suffering that transcends physical boundaries. The physical material culture includes traditional iconography and a church that serves as a local monument to the legacy of sacrifice left by the 21. Together, physical and digital material culture intertwine to preserve the heritage of the Copts in a movement of solidarity never before seen. The martyrdom of the twenty-first occurred during a time filled with social and political change around the world, fueled by activism and resistance to long-established societal norms.


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