Wednesday, 12 October 2022

10th Annual Official Commemoration of Nayrouz celebrated in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, with its first Message from His Majesty King Charles III

 

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office 

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
                         Media and Communications Office


REPORT

10th Annual Official Commemoration of Nayrouz celebrated in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, with its first Message from His Majesty King Charles III


12 October 2022

The Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom celebrated its 10th Official Annual Commemoration of Nayrouz (Coptic New Year) on 11 October 2022 in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, with Messages from His Majesty King Charles III, the Most Reverend Archbishop Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal, with addresses delivered by Fiona Bruce MP, Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, His Excellency Ambassador Sherif Kamel, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Kingdom, and Dr Ewelina Ochab, Deputy Director of Refcemi, The Coptic Orthodox Office for Advocacy and Public Policy. The service was officiated by His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos OBE, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London and Papal Legate to the United Kingdom.

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.


The service commenced with a welcome by The Right Reverend Anthony Ball, Rector of St Margaret’s Church, on behalf of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, who said:

“As a member of the Christian community here in the United Kingdom, this is an important occasion each year where we celebrate the witness of the Coptic Orthodox Church both in the land of its birth and also in this Nation as the community, its clergy and Archbishop work so tirelessly for the common good and particularly the cause of Freedom of Religion and Belief. At a personal level, a bishop who serves in the Anglican Diocese of Egypt, it gives me very particular pleasure to be able to share this occasion with you all once again.”


In his sermon, His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos made mention of an address by His Majesty King Charles III, saying:

Only days before the funeral of Her late Majesty The Queen, I was privileged to be among faith leaders invited to an audience with His Majesty The King. During that meeting His Majesty said ‘As a member of the Church of England, my Christian beliefs have love at their very heart.  By my most profound convictions, therefore – as well as by my position as Sovereign – I hold myself bound to respect those who follow other spiritual paths, as well as those who seek to live their lives in accordance with secular ideals.’”

His Eminence expanded on this by saying:

“One may think that this is a peculiar statement to be made by a person of faith, but being a person of faith does not give the right to cast judgement on others. It gives the absolute right to believe what we want to believe regardless of and despite others, but it does not give the right to impose that faith on others. Our God Himself loves us so much that He leaves us with a choice, even if that painful choice is to reject Him. He gives us that autonomy.”



Providing another example of inclusive faith, he went on to say:

“In very much the same vein, we have heard President Sisi of Egypt, a devout Muslim, say that his faith was core to him and yet it was the choice of every person to have or not have a faith. This is the model of leadership around faith and belief that we must be following today.”

In his conclusion, the Archbishop said:

“We gather today and we pray for newness: personally, collectively, collaboratively, and as a Nation.

In her Christmas Message of 2013, Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II spoke of newness, saying: “For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God's love, as we strive daily to become better people”

“So today as we stand and pray here, we give thanks for all we have, and remember those who continue to suffer. We also pray for renewal in our own hearts, our conviction, our commitment, our words and our actions, that we too may be a reflection of light and hope, a model of graciousness and kindness, and a vehicle that takes people from hopelessness, darkness, and death, into hope, Light and Life.”



The following Message from His Majesty King Charles III, was read by The Right Reverend Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry:

“As you come together to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Nayrouz Service in St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, I very much wanted to express my hope that this New Year brings blessings and joy to your community here in the United Kingdom, as well as to His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and around the world. 

I am well aware that you will have been accustomed on these occasions to receive warm messages from my beloved mother and how much your community valued these and will miss them. Throughout her life, The late Queen was truly committed to her Christian Faith, and recognised the great importance of respecting people of all faiths, and of none.

My thoughts are with so many in our world who face persecution and endure terrible hardship for their faith or belief, and I join you all today in prayer for those who continue to suffer injustice and persecution. I also join you in thanksgiving for the many freedoms we enjoy here in the United Kingdom.

I can only commend the resilience of the Coptic Orthodox Church and her faithful who have always carried their Cross with grace and courage. It is heartening to see that Coptic New Year celebrations continue to embrace and uplift people from all walks of life.

As you embark on this year of new beginnings, may you continue to bring people together in prayer and unity, and to promote peace and solidarity.”      



In a message from the Most Reverend Archbishop of Canterbury, read by The Right Reverend Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, His Grace wrote:

“In Christ all things are made anew. The followers of Christ face many difficulties, both in this country and in the Middle East. Here, even as we recover from the global pandemic, people are fearful of an autumn and winter of rising bills and hardship.”

“Europe finds itself once again experiencing war, with all the tragic loss and devastation it brings. But in the lands of the Middle East, Christians have endured suffering and persecution for many years. Our prayers for peace and justice rise to a Father whose Son suffered and died so that we might live and rise to life immortal.”



His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal wrote the following in a message read by Dr Ewelina Ochab, Deputy Director of Refcemi:

“The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

Today’s celebration is also an occasion to emphasise the special place that the Coptic Christian Church represents in our Eastern and Arab heritage, which today is in dire need of deepening the common spiritual values brought about by the divine messages that came only to establish justice, love and peace among all human beings.”


Fiona Bruce MP, Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief spoke about the importance of safeguarding Freedom of Religion or Belief and the work of International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance of Countries, chaired this year by the United Kingdom:

“The key aim of our alliance is to promote and protect Freedom of Religion or Belief for all across the world. A critical role since right across the world today people are losing their jobs, education, homes, livelihoods, families, freedom, access to justice, even life itself simply on account of what they believe. People are being discriminated against, marginalised, threatened, beaten, tortured, and killed, and too often by their own governments, the very governments with a duty to protect their citizens’ freedom of religion or belief. No one should face discrimination, hatred or violence simply because of what they believe, and yet in the 21st century millions do. Where Freedom of Religion or Belief is absent, not only do individuals suffer, but whole societies suffer. Countries cannot fully develop when they oppress members of minority groups. Communities are stronger when they include everyone. Freedom of belief is one of the foundations of a stable and secure society.”

Where there is Freedom of Religion or Belief, countries are less prone to violent extremism and terrorism. Indeed, not to put too fine a point on it, promoting and defending Freedom of Religion or Belief is an important element to promoting global peace and in our current unstable world that is why addressing Freedom of Religion or Belief is so important.”


In his address, His Excellency Ambassador Sherif Kamel, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Kingdom, said:

“It is a special privilege to be with you all this evening, to join you and share with you the 10th official commemoration of the Coptic Orthodox Feast of Nayrouz, in Westminster. New beginnings are always associated with hope and aspiration but the new Coptic Year which we are celebrating this evening is also a symbol of great sacrifices and exceptional resilience. It is an occasion for all of us to reflect on the importance of Freedom of Religion or Belief and to appreciate what many of us have achieved towards upholding and protecting this basic foundation of humanity, and to renew our commitment to ensuring the universality of this right.”

“The fact that we are all gathered here tonight, with our different faiths, beliefs, and religions, celebrating the Coptic Orthodox New Year in Westminster Abbey, in the United Kingdom, is an example of the similarities that bond us and bring us together in all our diversified convictions. I pray that the New Coptic Year brings love and peace to all Coptic Christians in Egypt and all around the world and to all people, whatever their religion or belief may be. May Almighty God bless us all in the New Year.”


Dr Ewelina Ochab, Deputy Director of Refcemi, spoke of the unity required to combat violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief, and said:

“The very unity in purpose we have witnessed following the passing of our beloved Queen is what we need to turn the tide on religious persecution. We need this unity to make a difference to the lives of those persecuted, and this unity in purpose is urgently needed. Every conference I speak at, I give very concerning updates that, as I see it, persecution based on religion or belief is increasing.”

Speaking of the work of Refcemi, she continued:

“During the UK Ministerial on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Refcemi, the Coptic Orthodox Office for Advocacy and Public Policy, hosted, co-hosted and contributed to several sessions accommodating dialogue on crucial issues pertaining to Freedom of Religion or Belief. Together with His Grace Bishop Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro, Archbishop Angaelos co-hosted a Prayer breakfast, bringing together representatives of many religions and beliefs to reflect on the work that needs to be done. This needs to happen more often, in more places, close and far from home, to facilitate a real change in the lives of those targeted.”

“We may not be able to recreate the unity in grief following the passing of our beloved Queen Elizabeth II but we need to unite in combatting the persecution of those targeted.  As Archbishop Angaelos says, ‘there is no monopoly in suffering,’ and so we must unite to alleviate the suffering of others irrespective of our religion or belief, our background, or age.”           

For Coptic Orthodox Christians, ‘Nayrouz,’ or ‘New Year’, presents an ongoing paradox, through which new beginnings and life is celebrated, while remembering those who have paid, and countless others who continue to pay, the ultimate price for their Faith. The service in Westminster also gives rise to highlighting the plight of people around the world who suffer injustice and persecution on account of their faith or belief.



*Ends*

 

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Statement from His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, following the departure of Her Majesty The Queen

 


Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office 

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
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Statement from His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London following the departure of Her Majesty The Queen on 8 September 2022

 

Alpha Historica / Alamy Stock Photo 

8 September 2022

Upon hearing the incredibly sad news of the departure of Her Majesty The Queen, on behalf of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, and the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, I express our profound sympathy to members of the Royal Family as they mourn the loss of an inspiring and gentle mother, grandmother and great grandmother. 

Her Majesty is known worldwide for her faithful witness and commitment to her Christian Faith and her tireless service to our Nation, the Commonwealth, and indeed the world. She is quite simply unmatched in her legacy, having served faithfully and joyfully as Monarch for over seventy years, longer than any other monarch in British history; a testament to her character and strength of resolve. She is also the only monarch that most of us will have ever known.

Over the course of her reign, Her Majesty used her position for good, serving the nation through tireless visits to various charities and organisations that serve the wider community and the most vulnerable. She is known widely for always taking her duty as monarch and a daughter of Christ seriously, evident in the way she spoke and interacted with people from all backgrounds, and in the Messages shared with the world every Christmas and Easter among other special moments throughout the year. Her Majesty’s uplifting and optimistic spirit was especially heartening at times of challenge over the course of her reign.

Her Majesty’s unfailing commitment to and support for members of the Church worldwide, and her gracious support of the ministry of the Coptic Orthodox Church here in the United Kingdom, that have been demonstrated through various Messages sent to our community over the years, will never be forgotten, and will leave a lasting legacy for all those she has touched.

Her Majesty has received His Holiness the late Pope Shenouda III, and His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, both historic moments that will be cherished by all within the Coptic Orthodox Church worldwide.

It is deeply moving to see how Her Majesty’s Christian Faith was central to her service and ministry, and absolutely core to her being, and that love extended to members of all faiths and none which is truly inspiring.

I am deeply thankful to have had the blessing of encountering Her Majesty and I can only imagine the depth of loss that is felt by millions, especially her family and the entire Royal Household, in her absence, and yet the light of her legacy will continue to shine on. 

I am personally thankful for the interaction I have had with Her Majesty for almost three decades, and have the deepest admiration and respect for the person of Her Majesty The Queen. I am deeply grateful for the gracious hospitality and respect offered by both Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh on occasions and have learned so much from their example over those years.

We pray repose for the soul of The Queen and comfort for her family and loved ones, our nation and the Commonwealth, as we also pray strength and wisdom upon His Majesty King Charles III as he not only mourns the loss of his mother but is called to carry a new responsibility as Monarch of the United Kingdom.

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

Monday, 15 August 2022

Reflection by His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, following the fire in Abu Sefein Church, Imbaba, Egypt


 Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
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Reflection by His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos,
Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, following the fire in Abu Sefein Church, Imbaba, Egypt

15 August 2022

It is with great sadness that we received news yesterday of the tragic loss of life caused by a fire in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Abu Sefein in Imbaba, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. To-date 41 precious lives, many of whom are children, have been lost, and scores of people remain injured. What is even more tragic, is that due to the nature of Liturgical attendance, many of these fatalities and injuries were multi-generational, with families mourning numerous members.  

As many bury their loved ones today, and others support survivors in hospitals and at home, we pray repose for those who have sadly departed, comfort for those who mourn them, healing for those who will bear the physical and emotional scars, and support for the families and communities that will continue to recover from this tragedy over the coming weeks, months and even years.

While much is being said about the cause of the fire, and the response time of emergency services, this must be left to what we hope and expect will be a robust and transparent investigation. For now, we focus on those most in need of our care and attention.

I am so touched by the outpouring of support that I personally, as well as many of my colleagues, have received from friends and acquaintances across Britain and around the world. Their gracious care, and the assurance of their thoughts and prayers, will be a source of great strength and support for our sisters and brothers in Imbaba and around the world.

Two bittersweet realities arise from this tragedy. The first is that Churches in Egypt are filled by the faithful on a regular basis, and so when tragedy strikes it strikes at a high cost, and at the heart of the community. The second is that tragedy creates a platform for us to recognise and value one another while experiencing each other’s pain and comforting one another through our suffering.

These tragic moments inevitably lead people from all walks of life to empathise with the suffering of mothers and fathers who weep for their children, children who have lost parents, families who have been torn apart, and friends separated. It is in that shared experience that we find hope in our common humanity, and ability to understand, grieve with, respect and value one another and the sanctity of life that we all share.

Assured of the promise and power of the Resurrection, we bid farewell to those who have departed from this world, and pledge to pray for and support those who remain with us, so deeply affected by this harrowing experience.

*Ends*

The names of those who have departed:

Ereny Atef Ramzy   

Magda Nabih Habib

Demiana Zakaria Zaki        

Mariam Tamer Wagih        

Parsina Tamer Wagih        

Abraam Tamer Wagih        

Mina Saleh Fakher 

Father Abd El Messiah Bekhiet    

Mirna Atef Ramzy   

Adel Agib Ayoub     

Nadia Said Botros

Mahriel Bassem Amen       

Youssef Bassem Amen     

Philopater Bassem Amen  

Mary Naim Amer     

Kirollos Ramy Arian

Mina Ashraf Azmy   

Farg Kamal Farg     

Romany Ezzat Gad

Kirollos Nour Ataa   

Ereny Refaat

Millionare Refaat     

Nady Edward           

Mary Edward

Jomana Edward      

Elaria Ashraf

Samia Ishak 

Kirollos Saber          

Bishoy Saber

Marista Saleh          

Mirna Moussa          

Basta Ebied 

Shenouda Dandash

Abd El Malak Hanna

Rania Lamie

Zakaria Mounir        

Nawal Haleeb          

Arzak Abdou

Nadine Fayed Zakaria        

Dawood Farah         

Nady Ishak   

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*