Monday, 28 February 2022

Comment and Call to Prayer by His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London and Papal Legate to the United Kingdom.

 

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office 

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
                 Media and Communications Office

Comment and Call to Prayer by His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London and Papal Legate to the United Kingdom.



28 February 2022

Just over a week ago it would have been inconceivable for most of us to imagine that there would be a war in Europe, and yet today we see the pain and destruction of war unfolding before our eyes in the streets, villages, and cities of Ukraine. We are seeing the now-too-familiar images of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children being internally and externally displaced; once-settled people being faced with uncertainty, and families being separated by war and conflict.

With the presence of twenty-four-hour reporting, we can become too easily distracted by the analysis of maps, charts and statistics, and forget the very real personal and human cost that is being met by very real people in-country, and by their families and friends around the world.

In this holy season of Lent across our Churches and Traditions, let us raise our hearts in prayer for an end to this war and conflict with the least possible loss of life, and for a restoration of peace and healing.

We pray protection upon the people and the armed forces of Ukraine and Russia. We pray wisdom upon leaders and policy makers, that regardless of geopolitical considerations, the preservation of sacred life always stands paramount. We pray peace for a world that is still recovering from a global pandemic that has affected so many, and has had an immense toll on us all.

May the Prince of Peace, our sovereign God, answer the prayers of millions around the world for an end to this war and further loss of life.

*Ends*

Thursday, 24 February 2022

‘No Monopoly on Suffering’ themed Contemporary Martyrs Day 2022, with contributions from Archbishop Angaelos, Fiona Bruce MP, The Lord Alton of Liverpool, The Bishop of Truro, Mervyn Thomas CMG, and Gareth Russell, Jersey Road PR.

 

    Coptic Orthodox Church UK 
Media and Communications Office 

                                       Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
Media and Communications Office


‘No Monopoly on Suffering’ themed Contemporary Martyrs Day 2022, with contributions from Archbishop Angaelos, Fiona Bruce MP, The Lord Alton of Liverpool, The Bishop of Truro, Mervyn Thomas CMG, and Gareth Russell, Jersey Road PR.

24 February 2022

Contemporary Martyrs Day 2022 was marked in an online event on 15 February 2022 themed ‘No Monopoly on Suffering’, highlighting not only the plight of the 21 Libya Martyrs who paid the ultimate price for their Christian Faith on 15 February 2015, but also the many communities that continue to suffer the brunt of persecution for practicing and living their chosen religion or belief.

Dr Ewelina Ochab, Deputy Director of Refcemi moderated the meeting, and gave wider context to Contemporary Martyrs Day, saying:

“We wish to use this day to shine a light on the issue of religion or belief, whenever and wherever it occurs. We use this day to stand with all those persecuted because of their religion or belief. Persecution is an issue that affects us all in various ways, this is also why this year, in preparing for Contemporary Martyrs Day, we have reached out to many religious or belief groups asking them to participate in this event, and we will hear from a few of them as they speak about the situation faced by their communities, including the Uyghurs in China, the Yazidis in Iraq and the Hazaras in Afghanistan.”

Launching the ‘#TellTheirStory’ Refcemi campaign, Dr Ochab continued:

“Over the next year we hope to highlight more stories, and this is the beginning of our campaign ‘Tell Their Story’ which aims to educate on the situation of communities around the world, to help them to speak out and trigger real change. As you hear their stories, tell their stories to others. It is our duty to spread the word and call for change. Change is urgently needed. Our advocacy effort aims to educate and unite in purpose to combat violations against religion or belief.”

His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, Founder and Director of Refcemi, said in his preamble:

“This event serves primarily to mark Contemporary Martyrs Day, a day set aside to remember the 21 martyrs in Libya, 20 Coptic Christians and 1 Ghanian friend, Matthew, and those from within the Coptic Orthodox community who have been persecuted for their Christian Faith, and those who have paid the ultimate price. Yet, it is not only a day for that. If we merely look at our own suffering within ourselves, then I think we lose sight of something. Following on from the execution of the 21 Libya martyrs in 2015, many people from many faith communities, and those of no faith at all, were touched because that particular situation spoke possibly of their own experience, or of the experience of someone else they knew, whether within Britain or around the world, and for that reason that ability of ours to look within ourselves but then out into the world is an essential one.”

Highlighting the scale of the issue, His Eminence continued:

“82% of the world considers itself religious, and yet over 80% of the countries in which people of faith reside, there will be some level of religious persecution taking place. To look at the experience of the 21 Libya martyrs, Christians targeted and executed for their Faith, also allows us to look beyond ourselves to other communities, and today we are joined by friends from the Uyghur, Yazidi and Hazara communities.

There is no monopoly on suffering. There is enough suffering in this world for us all to stand up for not only someone we know, but communities that we may not know of, but we hear about.”

A message from The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, addressed to His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, was read by His Grace Bishop Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark:

“Our solidarity with the martyrs means that spiritually we stand together on holy ground as we remember them. We all witness to the same faith, to the same overwhelming love of Christ crucified Who has touched and transformed our lives. The martyrs, past and present, speak most eloquently of Him. Our contemporary martyrs, such as the 21 we commemorate particularly today, remind us that the love of Christ is for every age, including our own. We are humbled and grateful as we remember them.”

The Bishop of Southwark then went on to speak about a recent pilgrimage journey to Egypt with Archbishop Angaelos, and said:

“We do not suffer these challenges here in the same way in the United Kingdom, but it is right that we stand in solidarity and hope, praying with, and advocating for those of our brothers and sisters who are hindered, ignored, threatened or even killed. The debate on Christian persecution and freedom of religion or belief at General Synod last week, which His Eminence has already mentioned, while it was just want example of solidarity with the persecuted Church. A vote was taken which was unanimous to stand up for all those persecuted for their faith.”

Speaking about the powerful example of Matthew, the Ghanian, who was killed alongside the 20 Copts in Libya on 15 February 2015, The Lord Alton of Liverpool said:

“Matthew, in this extraordinary act of love and solidarity, was willing to give his liberty and his life rather than walk away from his Coptic brothers. It stands as a rebuke to us all who remain silent in the face of the persecution of 250 million Christians worldwide.  His act of extraordinary solidarity shames so many of us when we consider our tepid response – often based on political expediency, institutional considerations, or trade and business – to the persecution which is experienced by religious and ethnic groups the world over – discrimination that morphs into persecution; then persecution which morphs into crimes against humanity; and then ultimately into the crime above all crimes, genocide.”

“…When Matthew Ayariga stood with his Coptic brothers, he did so in an uncommon, atypical, display of common humanity.  Are we willing to do the same?

The Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, The Bishop of Truro, who was tasked with ‘The Independent Review of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Response to Christian Persecution’, and said:

“It is right I think that this event should become a fixture in our calendar, not as something we give the nod to annually and not even just to remember those brave Christian brothers martyred on that Libyan beach, simply because they were followers of Jesus Christ, who died with the name of Jesus on their lips, though of course we do rightly honour them tonight. No; we should keep this date because of the pressing urgency of the times in which we live, and also because of the enduring significance of this issue. There is a pressing contemporary urgency in that this situation is getting steadily worse globally and indeed has worsened steadily since my Review reported over two and a half years ago now.”

Bishop Philip continued:

“The wholesale denial of Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the increasing denial of that, is a great evil. That people should be targeted simply because they believe different things and organise their lives accordingly is a monstrous evil. That 83% of the world’s population have that freedom curtailed is simply unacceptable, and that 80% of religiously motivated discrimination is directed against Christians is intolerable, and this is getting steadily worse.”

Fiona Bruce MP, Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), said in her address:

“It is right that we remember on Contemporary Martyrs Day, the horrific fate of those men murdered by Daesh on that beach in Libya, targeted purely because they were Christians, but we should not simply remember. We owe it to them, and their families, to act, to see that such barbaric events do not continue to happen. Sadly, as we have already heard this evening, far too many Freedom of Religion or Belief violations are increasingly happening every day and around the world today, yet just over a year on from my appointment as the Prime Ministers Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and even amidst the unfathomable, and sadly increasing suffering which we have heard of already this evening, I do want to encourage you. I want to encourage you today by what I have heard over the past year of the increase in the number and the determination of people of organisations and even of countries who are stepping up to join the charge to challenge these abuses and to work to ensure that everyone everywhere is free to follow their faith or belief.”

Ms Bruce continued to illustrate the work that the UK Government is doing in the area of FoRB, including international engagement, announcing a major upcoming Ministerial on FoRB, as well as FoRB fringe events, both of which will be held in London in 2022. The entire message can be viewed via the Refcemi YouTube channel.

Mervyn Thomas CMG, Chair of the UK FoRB Forum, urged all to move from awareness to action, and went on to say in his address:

“The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights gives everyone the right to choose, to change, and to practice their religion and if every country who had signed on to the agreement actually upheld that right in practice there would be many fewer martyrs in the world today. Sadly that is not the case. According to the Pew research centre, as we’ve already heard, 83% of the world’s population live in countries with high or very high restrictions on religious freedom.”

“As a Christian, I have had to ask myself ‘did my remit to speak up for religious freedom extend beyond the Christian community. What does the Bible say about that? In Proverbs Chapter 31:8 we read: ‘We are to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, ensure justice for those being crushed,’…everyone is our neighbour, even those we don’t like or see eye to eye with or indeed whose theology is fundamentally different from our own. In the light of that, CSW moved from being a persecuted church organisation to one that promoted religious freedom for all faiths and none, but nevertheless our work is motivated by our Christian Faith.”

Gareth Russell, Founder and Director, Jersey Road PR highlighted the responsibility of both the media and religious and belief groups to tell the stories of those who are persecuted, saying:

“People are twice as likely today than they were ten years ago to be open to spirituality and yet religious groups often lack the confidence to speak openly about the message of their faith for fear of ridicule or being ostracised, or as we mark today, being persecuted. That fear is not unfounded. As a PR agency we work in the business of stories and this evening we have heard many powerful stories…There are times they are dismissed, not for the quality of the story, but for the motivation of those within it. The role that religion plays in a media story can attract cynicism just by its very nature, often fuelled by a deep misunderstanding of faith.”

“The All Party Parliamentary Group on Religion in the Media released a report last year that found media reporting on a religion can be sensationalist, that it can reinforce problematic stereotypes, that it can commit basic mistakes and use imprecise language that homogenises faith groups while ignoring the diversity within those same groups. There is a need for a commitment from the media to religious literacy, if we are to build a more confident, harmonious society…There is also a responsibility on the part of religious groups to better understand the mechanics of the media and the needs of journalists…to present stories in a manner that takes into consideration their much reduced capacity and pressurised deadlines.”

His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, concluded the webinar by saying:

“We have heard of the opportunities presented this year in Britain, with the upcoming UK Ministerial on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the Lambeth Conference. We are thankful for the Truro Review and all that it brings, not only for the work of Bishop Philip himself and his team, but also for the work of the FCDO and all it has done through the work of the Special Envoy’s office and her team, along with others who are helping on this matter as a whole.”

“There is no monopoly on suffering. There is much suffering, and there is much more to be said and to be done. Today we have spoken, but many of us have also acted. When we act together, we bring so much more light and hope into the lives of many. This is not a philosophical or theoretical debate; this is about lives. As Christians it is part of the cross that we carry to accept persecution for ourselves, but never to accept it for others. It is a burden we may choose to carry, but we must never be silent to the suffering of others, and as Christians we do not advocate only for Christians but for everyone created in the image and likeness of God.”

The event also launched the ‘Tell Their Story’ campaign, in which three testimonies were heard from representatives of the Uyghur, Yazidi and Hazara communities. Watch via www.Youtube.com/Refcemi (Tell Their Story playlist).





For all messages and addresses in full, watch the webinar here: https://youtu.be/hJ1slwLLSy4  

*Ends*

 

More Information:

‘Refcemi’ The Coptic Orthodox Office for Advocacy and Public Policy: www.Refcemi.org

The Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO Support for Persecuted Christians: https://christianpersecutionreview.org.uk/report/

15 February 2015: Statement following the brutal murder of Coptic Christians in Libya https://copticcentre.blogspot.com/2015/02/statement-by-hg-bishop-angaelos.html

6 March 2015: HRH The Prince of Wales and The Archbishop of Canterbury support appeal for families of those brutally murdered in Libya https://copticcentre.blogspot.com/2015/03/hrh-prince-of-wales-and-archbishop-of.html

20 April 2015: Statement following the murder of Ethiopian Christians in Libya https://copticcentre.blogspot.com/2015/04/statement-by-hg-bishop-angaelos.html

15 May 2018: Comment by HE Archbishop Angaelos on Bodies of Libya Martyrs Repatriated to Egypt https://copticcentre.blogspot.com/2018/05/comment-by-he-archbishop-angaelos-on.html

 

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Messages received from Her Majesty The Queen, HRH the Prince of Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister at the annual Coptic New Year (Nayrouz) Service at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey

 

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office 

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
                         Media and Communications Office


Messages received from Her Majesty The Queen, HRH the Prince of Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister at the annual Coptic New Year (Nayrouz) Service at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey




10 November 2021

Messages were received from Her Majesty The Queen, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the Most Reverend Archbishop Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Right Honourable Boris Johnson MP, Prime Minister, as the annual Nayrouz (Coptic New Year) Service returned to St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey on 9 November 2021. Addresses were delivered by The Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict and Minster of State (Minister for South Asia, United Nations and the Commonwealth), and the Baroness Cox of Queensbury and Dr Ewelina Ochab, Deputy Director of Refcemi, The Coptic Orthodox Office for Advocacy and Public Policy.

Members of the House of Lords and House of Commons, the Diplomatic Corps, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Home Office, and humanitarian and advocacy organisations, as well as various ecumenical and inter-religious guests, joined members of the Coptic Orthodox community in the United Kingdom for the annual celebration, which was able to be held in-person, later than usual, after a year of challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic. The service commenced with a welcome by the Reverend Canon Anthony Ball, Canon of Westminster & Rector of St Margaret’s.

In his sermon, which focused on new beginnings, His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, said:

“Today, although a little later than usual, we celebrate New Beginnings. It is always a good opportunity to experience new beginnings, wherever or whenever they may occur. Some of us however fall into the romanticised view of what a good new beginning is. We speak of the joy of a fresh start, a fresh page, and we romanticise that; but new beginnings are, without a doubt, often difficult. There are so many around us who are starting afresh and yet doing so with considerable struggle.”

“We are asked to follow in the footsteps of our Creator, Who prepared everything for us, Who paved the way for us in His Incarnation so that we are helped as we journey, and Who reconciles us completely as we return. Today we must think more about others than ourselves. Let us not look at others from our own perspective, but theirs. When we see people journeying, let us walk in their shoes, for at least a small part of their journey, so that maybe then the complexity and challenge of those new beginnings may be better understood. We must exercise our generosity to those who deal with us at the personal level, to those within our communities, and to our world at large; recognising that when we are faithful stewards, more is given to us, so that we can be faithful over more. So, as we gather, we pray for new beginnings and new journeys, ours and those of others, and endeavour to do all we can for all those who may need our help along the way.”

Messages and Addresses followed the Service, beginning with a heartening message addressed to His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos from Her Majesty The Queen, read by Bishop David Hamid, in which Her Majesty wrote:


“Occasions such as this provide an opportunity to remember all those around the world who suffer hardship on account of their faith, especially in recent times. They remain in our thoughts and prayers.

At this time of reflection as you remember and honour the faithful witness and resilience of Coptic Christians throughout the ages, I wish all in the Coptic community a peaceful and blessed year ahead.”          

The message of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, read by Bishop Jonathan Clark, spoke of the importance of gathering in prayer, especially for communities that face hardship on account of their religion or belief around the world:


“Gathering together is an essential part of religious and community life. It helps us feel connected, not just at an individual level but, importantly, to something larger than ourselves. After such a challenging year for the global community, I am encouraged to know that the Feast of Nayrouz, the marking of the beginning of the Coptic new Year, will be a moment to see each other in person. In challenging times, the fact that the annual Nayrouz Service brings together so many people from different backgrounds and walks of life alongside the Coptic Orthodox community in the U.K. is a true symbol of solidarity and unity.”

“As communities around the world continue to face persecution and endure dreadful hardship for their faith, I join you today in prayer for all those who continue to suffer injustice and religious persecution.”


In a message from the Most Reverend Archbishop of Canterbury, read by Revd Dr Matthias Grebe, he focused on the importance of solidarity and collaboration, saying:

“Nayrouz or New Year, which takes place when normally the waters of the Nile rise, is a good time both to think of transitions and of the martyrs whose transition from death to life has so richly nourished the Church. Water can deal death and wash away dirt, and at the same time it gives new life, just as it does in baptism. The grace of this great sacrament is what we see displayed in the lives of the martyrs who inspire us to live out that same grace in our lives.”

“This is why our friendship is so important. It is not just a human friendship but a coming together in Christ. Not only does each growth in friendship take a step towards a more united world, but it increases Christ’s influence in the world.”

“May all of us, united in our faith in Jesus Christ, increase in the relationship of love He wants us to have with each other. Our prayers will be strengthened and our witness more effective.”


The Right Honourable Boris Johnson MP, Prime Minister reiterated the commitment of Her Majesty’s Government to respecting religious freedom and belief, in a Message read by Fiona Bruce MP, Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief:

“It is heartening that you are able to gather in person again for this significant event after such a challenging time for us all. Standing together in solidarity to respect and advocate for one another is testament to the resilience and character of your community.”

"As you commemorate the lives of so many Christians and people of all faiths and none who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their faith or belief, it is important for us all to remember that faith and minority groups continue to suffer persecution around the world. Respect for people of faiths is of fundamental importance to Her Majesty’s Government.”

“I hope that these celebrations usher in a blessed and peaceful year for the Coptic Orthodox Church community both here in Britain and worldwide.”

Dr Ewelina Ochab, Deputy Director of Refcemi, said in her address:


“All over the world, people – and whole communities – are suffering from persecution purely because of their religion or beliefs. This includes acts of violence and even attempts to annihilate whole communities. As we observe it, such acts are increasing globally. In the past five years alone, there have been several cases of atrocities which meet the legal definition of genocide. Yazidis, Christians and other religious minorities targeted by Daesh in Iraq Rohingya Muslims and other religious minorities targeted by the Burmese military in Myanmar. Uyghurs, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan Buddhists and others targeted in China. Christians targeted by Boko Haram and other militias in Nigeria —in all those cases, religious communities were targeted because of their religion or belief.”

“This is also the very reason for the establishment of Refcemi, the Coptic Orthodox Office for Advocacy and Public Policy founded in October 2019 by His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos. ‘Refcemi’ is the Coptic word for ‘advocate’. It speaks to the resilience of the Coptic Orthodox community which has lived through millennia of persecution, and in spite of these struggles,            has not retracted into a state of victimhood, but rather, has used this experience to stand and advocate for others.”


The Baroness Cox of Queensbury highlighted the persecution of a number of minority communities across the world, and said in her address:

“My message is a plea for more churches in relative comfort zones in societies such as ours, to remember St. Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth:

‘When one part of the Body of Christ suffers, we all suffer.’

I hope and pray that we will be alongside in prayer with our brothers and sisters suffering persecution in so many countries today – and remember ‘Prayer without deeds is dead.’

Thank you for letting me share some of the pain, the passion and the privilege of being with our persecuted brothers and sisters. And may our prayers for them enable us to be more worthy of the price they are paying for our faith.”

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon gave the concluding address, raising awareness of a number of religious freedom issues around the world, and reiterating the government’s commitment to working in the area of Freedom of Religion or Belief:


“Next summer, we will host an international Ministerial Conference on freedom of religion or belief.

The Foreign Secretary, the Prime Ministers’ Special Envoy Fiona Bruce, and myself, are all working hard to lay the foundations for a conference that energises the work of civil society, religious and non-religious communities, and Governments.”

“Your Eminence, Archbishop Angaelos, you have been a staunch ally in our shared mission to spread understanding, respect, and friendship between religious and non-religious communities.

I look forward to continuing our work together, as we promote and defend equality, inclusion and respect, at home and abroad; for everyone.”

Lord Ahmad concluded by expressing that the greatest test of anyone’s faith is the willingness and conviction to safeguard the faith of others.

*Ends*




Monday, 14 June 2021

G7 Prayer Breakfast addresses 'State sponsored persecution: The G7 role in upholding Religious Freedom'


G7 Prayer Breakfast addresses ‘State sponsored persecution: 
The G7 role in upholding Religious Freedom’

14 June 2021

For immediate release

His Grace the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, and His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, jointly hosted the G7 Prayer Breakfast at St Hilary’s Church in Cornwall on 13 June 2021, featuring a keynote address from Nury Turkel, Commissioner on the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).  

In his welcome remarks to both in-person and online attendees, Bishop Philip said:

“Welcome to Cornwall. The world’s spotlight is on this beautiful part of the world at the moment, and rightly so; particularly because of the G7 taking place just a few miles up the road. It is very appropriate that we look today at this vital international issue (of Freedom of Religion or Belief), as it were, on the fringes of the G7, so that we can continue to advocate for keeping this vital issue at the centre of the world’s political agenda where it deserves to be.”

After opening the event with prayer, His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos remarked on the importance of the ‘Independent Review into the Persecution of Christians’, led by the Bishop of Truro, saying:

“It flagged up what we all knew, that Christians around the world were persecuted, and continue to be persecuted, but it also presented the opportunity to look at this issue through a lens of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) for all. As I always say, ‘as Christians there is nothing more un-Christian we can do than not stand for others’, even if those ‘others’ choose to decline our faith. Our Lord Himself gives us all the opportunity to reject Him.” 

Archbishop Angaelos is the Founder and Director of Refcemi, the Coptic Orthodox Church Office for Advocacy and Public Policy, which was founded on the principles of advocating for others, using the unique position and experience of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which understands persecution on the basis of its Faith first-hand. 

Speaking of the role of Christians to advocate, the Archbishop continued:

“What is at the very heart of this matter is that these freedoms are indeed enshrined in conventions, laws and rules, but in actual fact, are God-given, and given equally to all. So we must do all we can, as people of faith or of none, to ensure that the rights we have, or in fact, in our situation in the Coptic Orthodox Church, have been deprived of at times, are valued enough to secure them for others who are on the receiving end of persecution.”

The Archbishop went on to speak about the need for a holistic approach to combat FoRB violations worldwide, urging that actions taken must be collaborative between civil society, policy makers, religious leaders, NGOs, state actors and more. 

In his keynote address, Nury Turkel thanked both His Grace Bishop Philip and His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos for hosting the event, and spoke of USCIRF’s ongoing work on the plight of people of all faiths and none suffering for exercising their right to FoRB, saying:

“During 2020, USCIRF was concerned about several governments whose actions met the statutory requirement of systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations.” 

Mr Turkel went on to speak on numerous FoRB violations in a number of countries, noting various instances where rights are denied, including forced conversions, prevention of the freedom to worship, criminal cases against those falsely considered ‘extremist’ due to their religious beliefs, arrests, kidnapping, the denial of access to medical care, blasphemy charges, the dire situation of religious minority women and girls, and more.

Speaking on the ongoing plight of the Uyghur community in China, Mr Turkel said:

“Given the alarming scale of global assault on religious freedom, unilateral action is not enough. The United States must work alongside like-minded partners to protect freedom of religion or belief.”

Mr Turkel continued to suggest a number of actions that could be taken by state actors, saying:

 “As we gather here on the margins of the G7, I would like to highlight some of our recommendations where there are opportunities for collective actions by G7 members… 

The G7 should stand together with a firm voice to protect religious freedom at the UN and to counter efforts to undermine that system by States that egregiously violate religious freedom and other human rights.”

Following the keynote address, Dr Ewelina U. Ochab, Deputy Director of Refcemi and Co-Founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response, moderated the panel discussion on State-sanctioned violations of FoRB - discussing the situation in North Korea, Myanmar, Nagorno-Karabakh, Cuba, China, the Tigray region of Ethiopia and more. 

The panel included:

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Cross-bench peer at the UK House of Lords and patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response

Baroness Cox, Cross-bench peer at the UK House of Lords, Founder and CEO of HART, 

Mervyn Thomas CMG, Founder President of CSW 

Michael Polak, barrister, Church Court Chambers

Rahima Mahmut, artist, Uyghur advocate

Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress

Dr Krish Kandiah, Social Entrepreneur 

Dr Jo Smith-Finley, reader in Chinese studies at Newcastle University

Video messages were also received from Jim Shannon MP, chair of the APPG on FoRB and Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, who urged continued action from the British government with regard to safeguarding the fundamental FoRB rights of people around the world.

Closing remarks were given by Archbishop Angaelos and Bishop Philip, who concluded the event with an inclusive prayer to cater for all those in attendance. 

Derek Thomas, the Local MP for St Ives, was among those who attended the event in person, which had a limited in-person attendance capacity due to the ongoing pandemic, joined by webinar attendees comprising of members of the diplomatic corps, MPs, NGOs, advocates and members of the general public. 

*ENDS*



More information:

In 2019, Bishop Philip chaired the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s independent review of the persecution of Christians across the globe. The Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review can be accessed here https://christianpersecutionreview.org.uk

To find out more about Refcemi, visit www.Refcemi.org


Monday, 7 June 2021

G7 Prayer Breakfast hosted by the Bishop of Truro and HE Archbishop Angaelos, to address 'State sponsored persecution: The G7 role in upholding Religious Freedom'

 

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office 

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office


 

G7 Prayer Breakfast to address ‘State sponsored persecution:
The G7 role in upholding Religious Freedom’

(To register your virtual attendance please visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/g7-prayer-breakfast-tickets-157525716659)


7 June 2021

For immediate release

Nury Turkel, the U.S. Commissioner on International Religious Freedom, named on Fortune's List of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders, will address the G7 Prayer Breakfast in Cornwall on Sunday 13th June 2021, hosted jointly by the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, and His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, and Director of Refcemi (The Coptic Orthodox Office for Advocacy and Public Policy).

The Uyghur-American lawyer and human rights advocate will deliver the keynote address at a breakfast gathering entitled, “State sponsored persecution: The G7 role in upholding religious freedom”, followed by a panel discussion featuring numerous distinguished guests working in the field of Freedom of Religion or Belief. 

In 2019, Bishop Philip chaired the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s independent review of the persecution of Christians across the globe. “Having the G7 meet here in Cornwall provides us with the perfect opportunity to put the spotlight on this key global issue,” says Bishop Philip. “I’m delighted to welcome Nury Turkel here to lead us in our thinking – and to point the way forward to further action.”          

Speaking of the relevance of this event, Archbishop Angaelos said, “Having an event that focuses on freedom of religion or belief in the context of the G7 meeting in Cornwall allows us the opportunity to look at the human cost of inequality and persecution around the world. During this time I know that policy makers will be encouraged to look at what they can do to stand for and with those most deprived of their God-given rights, and of the human dignity we all share.”     

The meeting, hosted in Penzance, due to Covid restrictions, will be limited to an in-person presence of 30 participants, but open to those who register for online webinar attendance.

To register your virtual attendance please visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/g7-prayer-breakfast-tickets-157525716659

ENDS

Editors Notes         

The Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review can be accessed here 
https://christianpersecutionreview.org.uk

To find out more about Refcemi, visit www.Refcemi.org         

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Transcript of Address by HE Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, to the Church of England General Synod 2021

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office 

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
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Transcript of Address by
His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London
to the Church of England General Synod on 23 April 2021


Sisters and Brothers, Christ is Risen!

While one part of the Body of Christ has celebrated the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, another part, including my own Church, prepares to go into Palm Sunday, and of course this time is pivotal and is core.

As Christians two things automatically come to mind. The first, is this is a celebration of our hope in the risen Lord, and His victory to liberate us and set us free. Secondly, it is a time that we have seen historically where Christian communities come under attack during these most festive days. The Cross is still being carried by sisters and brothers around the world.

Just last week we heard of the execution of a 62-year-old Coptic Orthodox Christian, Nabil Habashi Salama, executed by ISIS in North Sinai for building a church.  2 days ago, we commemorated the 2nd anniversary of the Easter bombing of the churches in Sri Lanka. Yesterday we commemorated eight years since the Archbishops of the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Churches of Aleppo were abducted in Syria. Today we see the ongoing suffering of Christians in the Tigray area of Ethiopia and, as Bishop Nick mentioned, the continued house arrest of Abouna Antonios, the Canonical Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Tomorrow I will be in Coventry Cathedral with my brother Bishop Hovakim of the Armenian Orthodox Church to mark the victims of the Armenian genocide and the sufferings of their communities until today. At the same time, there are ongoing religious freedom infringements against Christians in Nigeria, Pakistan, China, North Korea and over 120 countries. 

Whether we look at what St Cyril of Alexandria said, that “The Son is Himself an advocate, both in name and in reality”, or Nelson Mandela, who said that “The purpose of freedom is to create it for others”, what is evident is that we are called to action. 

I would like to pay tribute to Bishop Philip Mountstephen, the Bishop of Truro, for his Independent Review, which confirmed what we have always known; that there is systemic persecution of Christians around the world. This must of course also be seen within the context of persecution of other communities, including the Rohingya, the Uyghurs, and the Bahai communities.

While our freedom is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly Article 18, those rights are given to us by God. Luke 4:18 speaks of our Lord being the Chief Advocate, and in that spirit, we as the Church must continue to be custodians of those rights; custodians of this truth and of the sanctity of life.

I was humbled to be in a room in December of 2018, with the then Foreign Secretary, His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, friends from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors and Aid to the Church In Need, where the Independent Review was announced. We understand the concept of ‘fullness of time’.  This ‘fullness of time’ was of a serving Foreign Secretary making representation to a Prime Minister, and then approached the Archbishop of Canterbury, who approached a Bishop of the Church of England, who then took on this feat and was supported by NGO's and advocates; all working together. We worked together along with the Bishop of Truro through Refcemi, our advocacy office, to look at how we could understand and recognise the phenomenon of Christian persecution around the world.

As the Church of England continues to be the church for England, it will realise that it represents much more than our national boundaries, because many people present in Britain are represented abroad. For that reason, and as I discussed with my ecumenical colleagues earlier today, we ask you to recognise this reality, and we commend this item to you, so that at this time, at this moment, when we are called to act, we stand for those less fortunate than us, and we place ourselves at their service. 

Thank you.

***Ends***

Resources:

www.Refcemi.org 


 

Friday, 9 April 2021

Statement from His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, on the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

 

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
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Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
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Statement from His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, on the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh
 

9 April 2021

It is with exceptional sadness that I received the news of the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh today. Having had the pleasure of meeting with His Royal Highness on numerous occasions over the past twenty years, I will hold on to fond memories of his intelligence, sharp wit and uplifting sense of humour. Prince Philip’s dedication to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and his avid love for serving others, most notably his admirable support to and of Her Majesty The Queen, has always demonstrated incredible dignity and strength of character.

This will undoubtedly be a time of sadness for Her Majesty and all members of The Royal Family and Household, while also being a time to rejoice in the life of His Royal Highness, and the rich legacy he so generously leaves us.

It is comforting that the departure of His Royal Highness comes so close to the celebration of the Feast of the Resurrection both in the Anglican and the Orthodox calendars, a time at which we reflect on death being a mere departure to a new and more glorious life with our Lord Jesus Christ.

May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.

My prayers and those of my community are with Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family at this difficult time. 

+Angaelos 
Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London       
Papal Legate to the United Kingdom         

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

The Coptic Orthodox Church marks ‘Contemporary Martyrs Day’ convened by HE Archbishop Angaelos, with Messages from His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, and His Holiness Pope Francis, and addresses by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Koch, Fiona Bruce MP, The Bishop of Truro, and a panel of distinguished guests

 

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Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
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The Coptic Orthodox Church marks ‘Contemporary Martyrs Day’ with Messages from His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, and His Holiness Pope Francis, and addresses by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Koch, Fiona Bruce MP, The Bishop of Truro, and a panel of distinguished guests


16 February 2021

‘Contemporary Martyrs Day’ is marked annually by The Coptic Orthodox Church to commemorate the anniversary of the 21 Libya Martyrs who were murdered by Isis on 15 February 2015 in Libya. It has also been established to commemorate members of the Coptic Orthodox Church who have lost their lives in contemporary history as a result of religious persecution. The commemoration was initially established during a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

To mark the day this year, a webinar was hosted by Refcemi (The Coptic Orthodox Office for Advocacy and Public Policy) and The Coptic Orthodox Diocese of London, under the auspices of His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London and Founder and Director of Refcemi.

Archbishop Angaelos gave context to the webinar by explaining that advocacy initiatives on behalf of the Coptic Orthodox Church stem from centuries of persecution experienced by its community, saying:

“The Coptic Orthodox Church is in a unique place, through its own experience of persecution across the centuries, to speak for those of all faiths and none who continue to suffer today, and it is for this reason that we gather to raise awareness and advocate for those who are not in a position to speak for themselves.”

Addresses from the panel focused on Freedom of Religion or Belief in the broadest sense, touching on communities that continue to suffer marginalisation and persecution as a result of their religious beliefs, especially the ongoing plight of Christian communities worldwide; approximately 80% of the world’s persecuted religious believers are Christian, as documented in The Bishop of Truro’s report[1]. Speakers also addressed the plight of the Uighur and Rohingya Muslim communities, and others that are suffering ongoing violations of their religious freedoms. 

The event included a video message from His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, and a video message of solidarity from His Holiness Pope Francis I, Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. After the video messages, addresses were given by a distinguished panel of senior religious leaders, politicians, advocates, and others, which included:

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
His Eminence Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
His Excellency Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, The Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain
His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Director of Refcemi and Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London
The Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, The Bishop of Truro
The Lord Alton of Liverpool, UK House of Lords 
Fiona Bruce MP, Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief
Mervyn Thomas CMG, Founder President of Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Neville Kyrke-Smith, Chairman of Aid to the Church in Need
Martin Mosebach, Author of ‘The 21’

For all messages and addresses in full, watch the webinar here: https://youtu.be/wRR0Om67gwQ

In his message, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II emphasised the importance of keeping the Church’s history and heritage of martyrdom alive and in the consciousness of its members so as to inspire and encourage Faith in adversity. His Holiness also spoke about the many ways in which Christians can live a faithful life of witness, and shared contemplations on what the martyrdom of the men in Libya means for the Christian family of believers.

Reflecting on martyrdom His Holiness said:

“It is true that we are proud of the Faith of all martyrs, who can face death with courage to witness to their Faith, yet we cannot by any means tolerate persecution, a word that should be wiped out of the dictionary of humanity. We also have great faith in the value of human life, which is a gift from God and no man has the right to end human life by any means.

It is well understood by all Christians that witnessing our Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is joyful, even if it is through giving our life. That is why we today celebrate the commemoration of our beloved martyrs of Libya, and all martyrs of Faith with complete understanding of the verse ‘For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:21).”

Contemplating on the life and witness of the Libya Martyrs, His Holiness Pope Francis said:

“They, are our Saints, Saints belonging to all Christians, Saints of all Christian denominations and traditions. They are those who have washed their lives white in the blood of the Lamb…they have received the greatest gift a Christian can ever receive: to bear witness to Jesus Christ to the point of giving his own life.”

“I thank the bishops, and the priests of our sister Coptic Church who have brought them up, and taught them to grow in the Faith. And I thank the mothers of these men, these twenty-one men, who have passed the faith to them…in a dialect which goes beyond languages, the dialect of belonging.

“I join all of you, my brother bishops, present at this commemoration. To you, great and beloved Tawadros, my brother bishop and friend. To you, Justin Welby, who also wanted to participate at this meeting. I also join all the other bishops and priests, but above all the holy faithful people of God who in its simplicity, with its fidelity and infidelities, with its graces and sins, carries forward the confession of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ is Lord.”

The Lord Alton of Liverpool spoke of the ongoing plight of the Muslim Uighur community, and other persecuted communities in various parts of the world. He also highlighted the witness of Matthew Ayariga, a man from Ghana who was martyred alongside the 20 Coptic Christians on 15 February 2015, saying:

“It was so fitting that, in September 2020, Matthew’s mortal remains were taken to Egypt so that he could be buried, alongside those other remarkable men, in the church of the Martyrs of Faith bult in Al Our.  For me, the key point about Matthew Ayariga was that in a truly remarkable – supreme - act of solidarity he was willing to give his liberty and his life rather than walk away from his Coptic brothers. What a contrast to our indifference to the persecution of 250 million Christians worldwide.”

“His act of extraordinary solidarity shames so many of us when we consider our tepid response – often based on political expediency, institutional considerations, or trade and business – to the persecution which is experienced by religious and ethnic groups the world over – discrimination that morphs into persecution; then persecution which morphs into crimes against humanity; and then ultimately into the crime above all crimes, genocide.”

“The Coptic tradition of Christianity has so much to teach us – not least their experience and understanding of endless centuries of discrimination, persecution, and martyrdom…Heroic bravery in the face of evil demands a better response from us – even if it is only a pale imitation of the remarkable act of solidarity by Matthew Ayariga on that deadly beach in Libya in 2015.”

Reflecting on ‘the ecumenism of blood’, The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury said:

“The reality of the ‘ecumenism of blood’ is felt on this day as we commemorate the modern martyrs. It reminds us, and I am reminded too by a fellow bishop in the Church of England who is themselves from a family where there is a modern martyr, that ecumenism and solidarity are with the persecuted, for we are united to them by their blood, it is not just something we feel for the persecuted, or that we stand towards the persecuted; with is the key word.”

“If we are going to be with them, whether it is the 21 martyrs in Libya, and I still remember the horror of that news, or whether it is in Nigeria, or so many other parts of the world, we are there to listen as well as to speak ---more to listen, to be in solidarity with them.”

Fiona Bruce MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, gave an encouraging address on how the UK Government is working to protect Freedom of Religion or Belief worldwide in light of ongoing violations taking place:

“It is a privilege to follow such eminent champions of Freedom of Religion or Belief, and it is therefore in a spirit of humility that I speak as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief to commemorate those who have been martyred and to affirm Freedom of Religion or Belief as a fundamental right of every human being, a right to which the Prime Minister himself is resolutely committed.”

Quoting the Prime Minister, she continued:

“We all know that wherever Freedom of Religion or Belief is under attack, other human rights are under attack as well. We will continue to work closely with like-minded partners to stand up for members of such marginalised communities.”

Highlighting the worsening situation of certain marginalised communities, a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the scapegoating and discrimination they are facing in terms of receiving food, aid and healthcare, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy said:

“And yet, may I encourage you that today there is also growing international awareness of such violations and increasing advocacy on behalf of victims of persecution and the UK is showing itself to be a global leader in this, protecting and promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief is a key human rights priority for our Government.”

The Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, The Bishop of Truro, who was tasked with ‘The Independent Review of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Response to Christian Persecution’, spoke of the steps that the UK Government is taking to promote Freedom of Religion or Belief, especially in light of the Truro Report, and said:

“The net result of all this is that the fundamental human right of Freedom of Religion or Belief and a recognition of its widespread abuse is on the political agenda in the UK in a way that it simply has not been before, and furthermore it would now be very hard to remove it from that agenda. Perhaps the key recommendation of my review is that implementation should be fully reviewed three years on from publication; so the clock is ticking and it is absolutely vital that this issue remains high on the political agenda.”

His Eminence Archbishop AngaelosDirector of Refcemi and Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London concluded the webinar by saying:

“What we are talking about here is not an attack on the Coptic Orthodox Church, or Coptic Orthodox Christians, because there is no monopoly of suffering or persecution. For to persecute is to dehumanise, to commodify, to take away the image and likeness of God that is within and that is at the core of our humanity.”

“Through the witness of the 21 we have learned resilience, we have learned generosity, we have learned graciousness, we have learned to love quite literally those who seek to kill us, and we have learned to forgive, and so we are thankful for their witness.”

“As Christians this is our calling, who we are, we would not be true to ourselves if we do not advocate and stand together for people of all faiths and none, because we all share that humanity…when we stand against oppression and against persecution, we gain, because our humanity is enriched.”

Concluding with Scripture, Archbishop Angaelos said:

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

*Ends*


 

More Information:

‘Refcemi’ The Coptic Orthodox Office for Advocacy and Public Policy: www.Refcemi.org

The Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO Support for Persecuted Christians: https://christianpersecutionreview.org.uk/report/

15 February 2015: Statement following the brutal murder of Coptic Christians in Libya https://copticcentre.blogspot.com/2015/02/statement-by-hg-bishop-angaelos.html

6 March 2015: HRH The Prince of Wales and The Archbishop of Canterbury support appeal for families of those brutally murdered in Libya https://copticcentre.blogspot.com/2015/03/hrh-prince-of-wales-and-archbishop-of.html

20 April 2015: Statement following the murder of Ethiopian Christians in Libya https://copticcentre.blogspot.com/2015/04/statement-by-hg-bishop-angaelos.html

15 May 2018: Comment by HE Archbishop Angaelos on Bodies of Libya Martyrs Repatriated to Egypt https://copticcentre.blogspot.com/2018/05/comment-by-he-archbishop-angaelos-on.html