By BosNewsLife Africa and Middle East Services with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
ADDIS ABABA/TRIPOLI (BosNewsLife)-- Ethiopia began three days of national mourning Tuesday, April 21, for dozens of Ethiopian Christians who were shown being killed by Islamic State (IS) group militants in Libya after they apparently refused to convert to Islam.
The video, in which IS fighters called Christians "crusaders" who are out to kill Muslims, showed about a dozen men being beheaded on a beach and another group of at least 16 being shot in the head in a desert area.
Militants could be heard calling the detainees "followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church". A masked fighter in black brandishing a pistol made a statement threatening Christians if they did not convert to Islam.
Soon after the IS video was released, Ethiopia's government said it was "deeply saddened by the barbarous act committed against our innocent nationals." Officials were working to identify the victims.
The national mourning started Tuesday, April 21, with flags lowered to half-staff mast to mourn what the government called "atrocities committed against our nationals in Libya and South Africa".
Ethiopian nationals have also been caught up in a wave of anti-immigrant violence sweeping across South African townships.
Abune Mathias, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, called the killings "repugnant". "We have a duty to raise our voice to tell the world that the killing of the innocent like animals is completely unacceptable," he said in published remarks.
Joint prayers were held along with Muslim leaders, led by Sheikh Mohammed Jemal, head of Ethiopia's Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, who reportedly said the killing of people like "chickens" had no place in Islam.
The kidnapping and killing of Ethiopians was the latest in a series of attacks against Christians carried out by militants professing loyalty to Islamic State.
In February, IS claimed responsibility for beheading 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya after they refused to abandon their faith in Jesus Christ.
The caption by Islamic State noted that “these insisted to remain in unbelief” and embrace Islam.
IS militants were also linked to a recent assault on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli as part of wider efforts to impose its version of Islam on the region.