Thursday, 22 December 2016

HRH The Prince of Wales highlights the plight of minorities suffering religious persecution worldwide

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HRH The Prince of Wales highlights the plight of minorities
suffering religious persecution worldwide


22 December 2016

His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, has spoken out today for minorities suffering religious persecution in a video message for Aid to the Church in Need and on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’.

During his message, His Royal Highness spoke about the persecution of Christians and religious minorities, saying that for many “religious freedom is a daily stark choice between life and death. The scale of religious persecution is not widely appreciated…in some countries even more insidious forms of extremism have recently surfaced which aim to eliminate all types of religious diversity.” He went on to speak about the vast numbers of people displaced as a result of religious persecution in their homelands, and their ongoing struggle as they seek refuge elsewhere.

This message comes just one week after the brutal bombing and killing of 27 people, mostly women and children, in St Peter’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, targeted purely for their Christian belief. In response to the bombing, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales wrote a letter of condolence to His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark, also offering his condolence in person to His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, at a private meeting at Clarence House on 14 December 2016.

In December 2013 His Royal Highness visited The Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in the United Kingdom to express his support for Christians suffering persecution across the Middle East.


*Ends*

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Archbishop of Canterbury and Ambassador of Egypt join HG Bishop Angaelos in prayers at The Innocent Victims’ Memorial at Westminster Abbey, for victims of the Cairo Church Bombing


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The Archbishop of Canterbury and Ambassador of Egypt join HG Bishop Angaelos in prayers at The Innocent Victims’ Memorial at Westminster Abbey, for victims of the Cairo Church Bombing

14 December 2016

The Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and His Excellency Mr Nasser Kamel, Ambassador of Egypt to the UK & NI, spoke at a prayer vigil alongside His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, at the Innocent Victims’ Memorial, Westminster Abbey.

The vigil was held on 14 December 2016 in honour of the 25 Coptic Orthodox Christians, mostly women and children, who lost their lives in the recent tragic bombing of St Peter’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo. Present at the memorial were various faith leaders, ambassadors, ecumenical guests, members of NGOs and the Coptic Orthodox community in the United Kingdom.  

The Reverend Jane Sinclair, Canon in Residence, welcomed all to the vigil, which began with a communal prayer of thanksgiving, followed by a Scripture reading, and addresses from HG Bishop Angaelos, HG The Archbishop of Canterbury and HE The Ambassador of Egypt. After the speeches there was a prayer for the departed, during which their names were read aloud as 25 red roses were laid onto the Innocent Victims’ Memorial in between 25 lit candles, representing the blood that they shed for their faith, and the light that they will continue to represent in the memory of many around the world.           

In his address during the vigil, Bishop Angaelos thanked Canon Sinclair, the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Ambassador of Egypt, going on to thank all who attended, saying:

“It is deeply moving for myself and our community that all of you gathered here today have done so at such short notice. It is a shame that it takes events like these to gather us, but the fact that we do gather means that there is significantly greater good than evil in this world.

It is tragic that families have been broken apart just before the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity, and I can only begin to imagine their sorrow. While we pray for the families and support them pastorally in whatever way we can, we know that the loss of a loved one is something that only God can truly comfort at this time through His grace. I am personally moved that my sisters and brothers, continue, despite their suffering, to live with dignity, integrity, resilience, love and forgiveness, demonstrated through their genuine Christian witness.

People are indeed surprised when we speak of forgiveness at times like this, but we are called to forgive and we must continue to do so. Of course there is a call for justice but never for vengeance…reconciliation but never carelessness. In our unity as the Body of Christ, the family of faith, and the global family, we must continue to advocate for and safeguard the dignity and sanctity of every life. The importance of our mission and our ministry here as God’s children, is to continue, like these candles to be light in darkness.”

In responding to the tragic events in Cairo, the Archbishop of Canterbury said:

“We pray for all those who have lost loved ones that they may know God’s comforting presence, and for the nation of Egypt as it mourns. As we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ, the Prince of Peace, our prayer is that in Egypt Muslims and Christians together may be strengthened in their quest for peace and their rejection of the crude and cruel tactics of the terrorists.”

His Excellency The Ambassador of Egypt,​ said:

“Despite this moment of sorrow, the people of Egypt remain united against ignorance, intolerance and extremism. These heinous crimes that aim to undermine the unity of the Egyptian people,​  regardless of their religious affiliation, ​will never succeed, ​nor will the bonds that tie its religious establishments ever be broken. Peace and harmony have always prevailed in Egypt.

Let me remind you - as we also approach ​the Nativity celebrations - that the Virgin Mary, after giving birth to Jesus Christ, sought refuge in Egypt to protect her newborn from tyranny and intolerance." 

*Ends*
   



Monday, 12 December 2016

Message from HRH The Prince of Wales sent to HH Pope Tawadros II after Cairo Church Bombing


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Message of condolence received by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II from
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales

12 December 2016

Messages of condolence have been pouring in for the Coptic Orthodox Community worldwide as a result of a brutal bombing which claimed the lives of 25, mostly women and children, at St Peter’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo.

A message from HRH The Prince of Wales was sent to His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, saying:           

"I wanted to send to Your Holiness, and to all members of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and across the world, my most profound sympathy over the unbearably inhuman attack on the chapel adjacent to St Mark's Cathedral.  Those guilty of this terrible crime are clearly seeking, in their brutal way, to create divisions within Egyptian society, as we have seen only on Friday with the barbaric murder of six policemen in Giza. The steadfastness of Egyptians in the face of such appalling hatred and extremism is greatly to be admired.

I can only begin to imagine the dreadful shock and grief that Copts, and indeed all Egyptians, must be feeling and my heart goes out to the families and loved ones of those who have been killed and wounded.

I wanted to assure Your Holiness that Copts everywhere, and especially in Egypt, are in my thoughts and special prayers as they try to cope with the loss, pain and fear that the attack has inflicted upon them."

In response to the message of condolence from HRH The Prince of Wales and other individuals, Church bodies, faith groups and organisations, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom said:

“On a day of great concern and sadness for Coptic Christians around the world, it is truly heartening to receive warm messages of support and condolence from friends across a broad spectrum of society. Atrocities such as these cause much pain to all affected, yet they also shine light on the immense love, care and solidarity expressed by many who feel they share a common humanity, whatever their background, faith or walk of life.

I am thankful for the message from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, who visited our community in 2013 to highlight the plight of Christians in the Middle East, and for his ongoing support for all who suffer as a result of oppression and marginalisation. We pray that God continue to provide hope, light and support to all who are suffering, as we also pray for those who continue to aspire to be that support, that hope and that light.”

*Ends*


HG Bishop Angaelos comments a day after brutal bombing and murder of 25 people in St Peter’s Coptic Orthodox Church, Cairo


HG Bishop Angaelos comments a day after brutal bombing and murder of 25 people in St Peter’s Coptic Orthodox Church, Cairo

12 December 2016

Today is a day of many emotions: sadness, nervousness, uncertainty, and understandably even anger at times. That is because yesterday was a day in which we witnessed the worst of humanity, when innocent women and children who decided to worship their God in their spiritual home had their lives needlessly and senselessly ended without warning. They were used as pawns; a means to an end. To the perpetrators of this heinous crime, their lives clearly held no greater value than scribbles on a strategic page; a plan that was to be executed for a cause to which they were merely incidental, collateral damage. Yesterday we saw beautiful lives lost, families separated and broken, and whole communities grieving; a truly painful time that has not only affected Coptic Christians, but Egyptian society at large, Muslims and Christians alike, and millions around the world.

Crimes will always be perpetrated and criminals will continue to exist, but such a strategic, vicious act is difficult to comprehend. It is indeed difficult to understand how a person might plan and execute such a horrific, ruthless and barbaric plot against innocent women and children. The only way to do this is to completely disregard the relevance, value and sanctity of any life potentially affected by these actions.

In recent decades, we have seen recurring acts of violence against Christians and Christian communities in Egypt. Time and time again, very few, if any, perpetrators have been brought to justice, and we subsequently continue to witness an escalation of these attacks. This is not a matter of blame, but accountability, with an expectation that barbaric acts such as these should never occur, but if they do, that their perpetrators are rightly and fairly held to account. This is not a call for vengeance, but a deterrent against similar future plans and aspirations. 

We are thankful for the overwhelming outpouring of emotion and support that we have personally received from friends, and even indeed strangers, around the world in response to this horrific and heartbreaking attack, but it is unfathomable that at the same time, others have politicised this atrocity by actually laying blame on those targeted, maimed and killed because of the perceived political stance of Christians in Egypt. They have even gone so far as to imply that Christians and the Church were somehow complicit in this crime to gain sympathy, allegedly using their daughters, sisters, mothers and grandmothers as means to a ludicrous contrived political end.

As Christians, we have hope in the belief that good will prevail despite the seemingly increasing evil in our world. Life will certainly go on and atrocities such as these will by no means defeat us. Today, tomorrow and the next day will continue to bring new beginnings and greater resilience, but there will continue to be a deep effect on many that may remain with them for weeks, months, and even years to come.

As Christians, we also believe in forgiveness, but forgiveness is by no means synonymous with ignoring justice. Forgiveness ensures that our own hearts are not entangled in a web of anger and resentment, or corrupted by feelings of hatred or revenge. Forgiveness is ultimately liberating and empowering, but at the same time, justice is essential; not for the purposes of punishment, but to secure and protect our societies in which people must respectfully live side by side.

Chapter 16 of the Gospel of Saint John tells us that in the world “we will have tribulation” but to be “of good cheer” for the Lord Jesus Christ has “overcome the [evils of this] world.” The Scriptures also tell us that “the time is coming that whoever kills [us] will think that he offers God service” (John 16:2). This reality has been lived for two millennia, through the reign of Diocletian, and continues until today as we still witness targeted persecution throughout the world. In facing these struggles throughout history, too many precious lives have been lost, and this is why we must advocate for the safeguarding of every life, so that many more do not continue to suffer on our watch.

As we prepare for feasts and celebrations
: Christmas in the Gregorian calendar, the New Year, the Feast of the Nativity in the Julian calendar, and Epiphany, sharing them with family and friends around us, there are families that will not be coming together, and communities that will not be celebrating, as a result of this great loss. We remember and pray for them all, and assure them that they will not be forgotten. We also live confident that if we, as limited imperfect beings, are moved by their loss and suffering in this way, that our perfect, all-loving, all-powerful, and all-just God hears their cries and will by no means forsake or forget them, but strengthen, support and comfort them as only He can.

*Ends*

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Statement by HG Bishop Angaelos after explosion kills at least 25 at St Peter's Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo

Al Jazeera English and BBCWorld  News Interview with HG Bishop Angaelos
Bomb kills 25 Coptic Orthodox worshippers during Sunday worship in Cairo

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop
 of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom
 
11 December 2016

It is with great sadness that we receive the news today of at least 25 people brutally murdered by an explosion during regular Sunday worship at St Peter’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, adjacent to the Grand Cathedral of Saint Mark.

Our prayers are with those whose lives have been so senselessly ended, those who have been injured, and every family and community affected. We also pray for every Coptic parish and community across Egypt as they fill their churches this morning, as well as for the broader Egyptian society that fall victim to similar inhumane attacks.

Many within our Coptic community in Britain will have family and friends in Egypt, and we also pray for them at this time of uncertainty. 

We share in this tragedy but are encouraged by the strength and resilience of our brethren in Egypt that we have grown accustomed to and learn from. We pray God’s peace and protection upon the Christians of Egypt, the broader Egyptian society, Christians around the world worshipping this morning and all faith communities that fall prey to similar attacks. 



Saturday, 10 December 2016

Human Rights Day 2016: Statement by HG Bishop Angaelos

Human Rights Day 2016

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop
of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom

10 December 2016

As another year draws to a close and we mark Human Rights Day 2016, the importance of the sanctity of every human life remains challenged in far too many places in our world. This is despite various charters and conventions put in place to safeguard the lives of all. While humanity is seen to be rapidly advancing in many areas we are, as a global community, guilty of neglecting and even forsaking basic God-given rights and freedoms which were bestowed indiscriminately upon all; rights that must continue to underpin our values and choices if we seek to preserve justice, peace and freedom.

Human Rights Day commemorates the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[1] in 1948, which set out to provide a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations to be universally protected.

Among the various safeguards outlined in the Charter, yet clearly still violated across our world today, is Article 3, which states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” This is sadly in stark contrast to the way in which many are forced to exist in parts of our world. Likewise, Article 14 outlines that “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution,” a right now threatened by vast global displacement that has in part resulted from the overlooking of gross human rights violations over decades against those who now seek refuge. On the matter of Religious Freedom in particular, Article 18, a right still grossly violated in many countries states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” This of course is starkly different from the reality that 5.3 billion people, representing 76% of the world’s population, live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion[2]. Other articles within the Charter deal with education, legal representation, quality of life, and other key issues, yet how many of the countries that subscribe to this charter truly abide by it in its entirety?

We should not forget however, that so many within the religious, civic and political spheres work tirelessly to advocate for the protection of these basic human rights, and their efforts must be supported and praised. We owe a great debt of gratitude to countless religious leaders, advocates, lawyers, politicians, healthcare professionals, aid workers, volunteers, and so many more who risk their lives for the sake of others.

Whether speaking of religious freedom, freedom of thought or conscience, asylum, education or any other right outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must realise that all of these rights are fundamental, as without them we allow for inequality, injustice, marginalisation, and oppression. We must also remember that to protect the rights of others is to protect our own.

Remembering that there is a foundation for our actions that pre-exists this and similar charters, the Christian message calls us to live as the image and likeness of God, and if we are to do so faithfully, the Scriptures provide a model for us to follow in the way that He Himself has dealt with humanity, saying “He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18).

We pray that those who work tirelessly to safeguard the rights of others are supported in their continuing and faithful work, and that more commit to the active promotion and safeguarding of these basic human rights that protect us all. We also pray for all those deprived of their basic human rights across our global community, that they find comfort and peace, knowing that many around the world still work tirelessly to alleviate their pain.


*Ends*


[1] www.UN.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights
[2] www.FreedomDeclared.org/Facts

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Press Release: Syrian Patriarch speaks at House of Lords meeting hosted by Lord Alton, at the invitation of HG Bishop Angaelos

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Syrian Patriarch speaks at House of Lords meeting

29 November 2016

On 28 November 2016 a meeting was held with the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church at the House of Lords, hosted by The Lord Alton of Liverpool, at the invitation of His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.

The meeting, held under Chatham House Rules, gave opportunity for interested parliamentarians, diplomats, religious leaders and members of advocacy and human rights organisations, to listen to His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, one of Syria’s leading figures and one of its senior Christian leaders. The current situation in Syria, the suffering of its Christian communities and how others abroad can be of assistance, was discussed.

During the course of the meeting, concerns were raised over the nature of media coverage of events in Syria, and its lack of coverage of suffering communities in Western Aleppo. The concerns of the Syrian community, both Muslim and Christian, over British foreign policy and its potential long-term effects were raised.

The efforts of the Church in Syria to support and care for all members of the community indiscriminately, despite a lack of resources, were outlined. Following the meeting The Baroness Cox and The Lord Cormack both raised questions in a debate in the House of Lords concerning the situation in Aleppo.

After the meeting, Bishop Angaelos said:

“I am pleased that numerous members of parliament and the British community were given opportunity to listen to His Holiness, who is not merely a leader, but someone who lives in Syria among his flock, and who understands the gross challenges faced by Syrians. It is time for us to stop speaking about people in Syria, and start speaking and listening to them, in order to ascertain their needs and to try our utmost to meet them.

While thankful for the generosity and humanitarian aid already provided by Her Majesty’s government and the British public to suffering communities in the Middle East, what has become increasingly more evident is that Churches in Syria are left to their own devices to provide for those suffering, both Christian and Muslim, as a result of the ongoing war and crisis.

With limited resources and little to no funding from government bodies, Churches are playing a crucial role in helping to provide for the most vulnerable, and to hold communities together at a time when they themselves are under threat. The time is now for us all to do what we can to act to support their efforts, and to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected and not left to suffer under our watch.

Having said that, we give thanks for the clear message of Christian hope consistently lived and demonstrated by our sisters and brothers in Syria, and continue to pray that calm, peace and safety may once again be restored to their land and communities.”

In the days before the meeting, Bishop Angaelos attended the consecration of St Thomas Syriac Orthodox Cathedral, with His Holiness Patriarch Aphrem II, which was also attended by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, and attended liturgy at the Cathedral with the Patriarch before welcoming him to a community reception at St Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in London. 

*Ends*

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

HG Bishop Angaelos speaks outside Coptic Cathedral of Saint George for #RedWednesday

His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, speaks outside the Coptic Cathedral of Saint George about Red Wednesday, a day in which the plight of those denied their religious freedom is highlighted. #RedWednesday www.ACNUK.org

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Statement by HG Bishop Angaelos on International Religious Freedom Day 2016

Copyright:Photograph by Roger Anis
Statement by
His Grace Bishop Angaelos
General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church
in the United Kingdom
International Religious Freedom Day 2016

27 October 2016

As we mark International Religious Freedom Day, it is becoming more apparent that the Freedom of Religion or Belief is not only desirable, but fundamental to our ability as humanity to peacefully co-exist, and live with God-given dignity irrespective of our religious or non-religious convictions.

Regardless of what many may want to believe, religion is not only hugely significant, but fundamentally core to the vast majority of the world’s population. Accordingly, the opportunity to have and practice one’s religion unencumbered, and without imposition on others, is a right that must be protected for all those who believe and practice peacefully and faithfully.

Our world is struggling to promote, and indeed maintain, God-given freedoms that have been enshrined in numerous international charters and conventions for decades, such as Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a result we continue to witness violations against communities around the globe, and for that reason it is now that governments, faith leaders, civil society, NGOs and all in positions of leadership or influence must stand together in solidarity to address the problems that threaten further violations against the most vulnerable, and lead to the destabilisation of our global community.

Collaboration remains our best tool in combatting intolerance and injustice, and providing hope at a time when fear, anxiety and hopelessness are increasingly overtaking our general state of being and perspective.

The Christian message is one of hope, and at these times of seemingly increasing darkness, that Gospel message of hope and promise is most needed. God has graciously and indiscriminately bestowed humanity with the freedom to choose or reject Him, and did not make His image and likeness, the right to dignity or the basic right to exist, conditional upon choosing Him. It is upon that foundation that we must accept one another’s diversity, and advocate for all who are denied the right and freedom to practice their chosen faith, or none.

The oppression and persecution of religious minorities across the Middle East and beyond has unfortunately become an all-too-familiar occurrence. As a result, many have become either desensitised or disheartened by the ongoing struggle. We must not lose heart however, but take opportunities such as today, to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves, to advocate for those who find themselves without a champion, and to challenge all who seek to justify injustice. Following in the footsteps of our Lord, we must endeavour, to the best of our ability, to “proclaim liberty to the captives…recovery of sight to the blind…[and] set at liberty those who are oppressed…” (Luke 4:18).

Each and every one of us can make a difference, so let us take the opportunity on International Religious Freedom Day to work in whatever capacity we can to safeguard the basic God-given rights and freedoms of those we encounter on a daily basis, and those we see suffering from afar. When we advocate for others we inevitably advocate for the whole of humanity, ourselves and our own included.

Trusting in the faithfulness of our heavenly Father, we pray that He continues to use all who are willing to spread the message of hope, light, forgiveness, and peace to those who are so desperately in need of it in our world today. 

*Ends*

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Press Release: HG Bishop Angaelos delivers address during historic Foreign Commonwealth Office conference highlighting importance of Freedom of Religion or Belief

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HG Bishop Angaelos delivers address during historic Foreign Commonwealth Office conference highlighting importance of Freedom of Religion or Belief


25 October 2016

The Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) hosted a ground-breaking 2-day summit 19-20 October which brought together more than 50 expert speakers, including His Grace Bishop Angaelos, and over 170 participants from 38 countries, to explore how the promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) can help prevent violent extremism.

In the opening address during the conference, FCO Minister for Human Rights, The Rt Hon. the Baroness Anelay of St Johns DBE, said:

“Freedom of Religion or Belief is fundamental to a successful society. It builds resilience against the prejudice, discrimination and persecution that not only prevents a society from achieving its full economic potential but also leaves it vulnerable to extremism.   

That is why it is so important that we work together now to put freedom of religion or belief at the heart of our effort to prevent violent extremism.”  

 


In his address, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said:
“It is time for us to rethink the dynamic and the way in which we communicate because the world is no longer a place in which politicians, religious leaders, civil society, and NGOs should function separately. Nor is it a place that can allow for any nationalist agenda to override the human right. We all need to work in collaboration to present a nuanced understanding of who we are as today’s international community.” 

Highlighting the importance of respecting people of all faiths and none, Bishop Angaelos continued:

“We cannot speak of regions as being religious. A religion is something that we live by and does not define geographic borders. We must also push beyond the understanding of tolerance, because as a Christian, I cannot accept ‘tolerance’ as my benchmark; the Scriptures actually call us to love, respect, honour, and forgive indiscriminately. As religious leaders we need to support one another in advocating for people of faith and, indeed, of no faith.”

Following the FCO conference, over 100 participants joined the Coptic community at the annual Nayrouz service in St Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey on 20 October 2016. FoRB was highlighted during the sermon by Bishop Angaelos and messages received from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Prime Minister Theresa May, and the Most Rev. and the Rt Hon. the Archbishop of Canterbury. Issues of FoRB were also raised in addresses delivered by HE Ambassador David Saperstein, USA Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, The Lord Alton of Liverpool, HE Ambassador Nasser Kamel, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Kingdom, and The Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities. [Read full report containing quotes and photographs HERE].

In 2015 Bishop Angaelos was conferred the honour of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for ‘Services to International Religious Freedom’ by Her Majesty The Queen.

*Ends*

Monday, 24 October 2016

Press Release: Press Release: Messages from HRH The Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury received as religious freedom is highlighted in annual Coptic New Year (Nayrouz) Service at Westminster Abbey


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Press Release: Messages from HRH The Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury received as religious freedom is highlighted in annual Coptic New Year (Nayrouz) Service at Westminster Abbey


24 October 2016

Messages were received from HRH The Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury as religious freedom was highlighted at the annual Coptic New Year (Nayrouz) Service at St Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey. Addresses were also delivered by HE Ambassador David Saperstein, The Lord Alton of Liverpool, HE Ambassador Nasser Kamel and The Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth. [Read full report including quotes and photographs here]
Joining members of the Coptic community at the service were members of the House of Lords, House of Commons, the Diplomatic Corps, the Foreign Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, humanitarian and advocacy organisations, and various ecumenical, inter-religious guests. The service commenced with a welcome by the Reverend Canon Jane Sinclair, Canon of Westminster & Rector of St Margaret’s.
In his sermon, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom said:
“It has undoubtedly been a challenging year with the referendum, news of wars, oppression, homelessness, displacement, and presidential elections; there is so much to destabilise us, but what is our core? Our core is our Faith; the Good News.”
“How can I stay silent in seeing the oppression of others when I have tasted that bitterness and seen that affliction and persecution. We have all suffered in our own ways and so therefore we are all mandated to speak out for others in our own ways.”
“Today as we start this year, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon us’; we are anointed, mandated and sent into this world as hope, light and promise. It is God in us Who enables us to do this, and so today we really do stand together in this sacred place, with the saints, in unity of heart. Let nothing take that away from us, and let nothing defeat that spirit that allows us to defeat all that seeks to silence us.”
Following prayers for the persecuted and martyrs of the Christian Faith, a message from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was read by The Right Reverend Geoffrey Rowell and Mr Jonathan Hellewell LVO, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister read a message from The Right Honourable Theresa May, Prime Minister.
In a message addressed to Bishop Angaelos from The Most Rev. and the Rt Hon. the Archbishop of Canterbury, read by The Right Reverend Nigel Stock, Bishop at Lambeth, he said:
“Your community is a suffering community. Who can forget those young men so brutally murdered in Libya, or what your Church must endure from time to time in your homeland. Yet you speak of the forgiveness of Christ and look always for that which helps the peace of God be known.”
Prior to the service, the Foreign Commonwealth Office hosted a ground-breaking 2-day summit from 19-20 October which brought together more than 50 expert speakers, including His Grace Bishop Angaelos, and over 170 participants from 38 countries, to explore how Freedom of Religion or Belief can help prevent violent extremism and identify opportunities to work together. Over 100 of those participants joined the Coptic community at the annual Nayrouz service in St Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey on 20 October 2016.

*Ends*

Report: Messages from HRH The Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury received as religious freedom is highlighted in annual Coptic New Year (Nayrouz) Service at Westminster Abbey.


Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
                                   Media and Communications Office

Report

Messages from HRH The Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury received as religious freedom is highlighted in annual Coptic New Year (Nayrouz) Service at Westminster Abbey.


24 October 2016
Messages were received from HRH The Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury as religious freedom was highlighted at the annual Coptic New Year (Nayrouz) Service at St Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey. Addresses were also delivered by HE Ambassador David Saperstein, The Lord Alton of Liverpool, HE Ambassador Nasser Kamel and The Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth.
Joining members of the Coptic community at the service were members of the House of Lords, House of Commons, the Diplomatic Corps, the Foreign Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, humanitarian and advocacy organisations, and various ecumenical, inter-religious guests. The service commenced with a welcome by the Reverend Canon Jane Sinclair, Canon of Westminster & Rector of St Margaret’s.

In his sermon, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom said:
“The Gospel reading today reminds us that we have a responsibility to proclaim the good news, to set captives free and to be light and sight to those who may live in darkness and blindness, whether because of their own doing, or because of the imposition of others. That is our calling and how we are meant to live as Christians.”
“…we must reclaim the narrative itself, for the narrative is good and gracious. It is actually the counter-narrative that works against our humanity. Once we declare our efforts as the counter-narrative then the norm is defined as evil, conflict, destruction, death and oppression.”
“It has undoubtedly been a challenging year with the referendum, news of wars, oppression, homelessness, displacement, and presidential elections; there is so much to destabilise us, but what is our core? Our core is our Faith; the Good News.”
“We are graced and blessed by many non-Christians at this service, and it does not shame or embarrass me to tell you that my Faith gives me joy, because this joy that I have is meant to be shared with you…just as your joy becomes mine.”
“I am a Christian, and by the grace of God I will remain a Christian and I rejoice in my message and in my Faith, and that surely is a right that I must be able to enjoy regardless of the fact that there are many who are not Christians, and they too rejoice in their faith. That is the spirit and humanity we are aiming for, a humanity that rejoices in, celebrates, edifies and protects all.”  
“How can I stay silent in seeing the oppression of others when I have tasted that bitterness and seen that affliction and persecution. We have all suffered in our own ways and so therefore we are all mandated to speak out for others in our own ways.”
“Today as we start this year, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon us’; we are anointed, mandated and sent into this world as hope, light and promise. It is God in us Who enables us to do this, and so today we really do stand together in this sacred place, with the saints, in unity of heart. Let nothing take that away from us, and let nothing defeat that spirit that allows us to defeat all that seeks to silence us.”
Following prayers for the persecuted and martyrs of the Christian Faith, a message from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was read by The Right Reverend Geoffrey Rowell and Mr Jonathan Hellewell LVO, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister read a message from The Right Honourable Theresa May, Prime Minister.
In a message addressed to Bishop Angaelos from The Most Rev. and the Rt Hon. the Archbishop of Canterbury, read by The Right Reverend Nigel Stock, Bishop at Lambeth, he said:

“Your community is a suffering community. Who can forget those young men so brutally murdered in Libya, or what your Church must endure from time to time in your homeland. Yet you speak of the forgiveness of Christ and look always for that which helps the peace of God be known.”
“Thank you for your friendship in the gatherings of Church leaders of this country and your willingness to be so constructive in relationships between Churches.”
“I hope and pray that we can increase the love and understanding between our churches that we may draw nearer to our Lord’s desire that ‘all may be one’.”
Following the messages, an address was given by HE Ambassador David Saperstein, USA Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, who said:
“Amongst many of the worshippers who are here this evening are a number of experts in and advocates of religious freedom who gathered at a conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief, sponsored by the Foreign Office and it is fitting that at the conclusion many chose to be part of this congregation. That the Coptic calendar is dated from Diocletian’s reign, when precisely it was because under his rule that Egypt’s Christians suffered the most severe persecution speaks directly to the cause of all of us who care about religious freedom.”
“Given many of the violations of religious freedom that we see in the world today, they are structural, systemic, long-standing, and we must acknowledge that there are few quick-fix solutions to these entrenched challenges. This struggle is about changing people’s minds, changing people’s hearts, working to convince governments, leaders, citizens, that their societies will become more stable, prosperous and successful by ensuring equality and full inclusion for members of all religious communities including minority religious communities.”
“As we commemorate this New Year…let us all make the pledge to make real the dream and hope of freedom not only for the Coptic community, for all, to all the religiously oppressed in every land who live in fear, afraid to speak of what they believe in…this call for the New Year calls us to be a beacon of hope and light, of equality and justice of a future filled with true freedom.”
The Lord Alton of Liverpool commented on the historic role that Egypt played in providing refuge to those fleeing religious persecution, saying:
“Egypt had been home to Jesus Himself, after his refugee family fled the slaughter of the holy innocents and found a safe and secure home in a welcoming Egypt: surely a story with significance for these troubled times.”
“If such deaths are to mean anything, we who are drawn from our different faiths and traditions must faithfully rededicate ourselves to work for the universal freedom of religion or belief that is set out in article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That is surely the inspiration that we should take away from this beautiful Nayrouz service and from a two-day [FCO] conference that we have just been reminded about.”
HE Ambassador Nasser Kamel, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Kingdom, said in his address:
“It is indeed an honour for me to participate today as the Ambassador of Egypt in our commemoration and celebration of the Coptic Feast of Nayrouz, to honour all those who have sacrificed so much, including their lives, for their Faith. Their courage and unwavering dedication to their Faith in the face of oppression and tyranny continue to serve as an example to humanity.”
“We are indeed indebted to the martyrs of Egypt, they shone as beacons of light and gave the people strength in their Faith.”
“From this great church, this place of worship, I want to stress that peace and harmony, and most importantly co-existence, should be the guiding value of any civilised society.”
“We are also proud as Egyptians that Egypt has the largest Christian community in the Middle East, and we intend to keep on working to create and enhance a conducive environment for all Egyptians to prosper and reach their full potential regardless of their faith, and we hope that those who insist on building walls or spreading a culture of fear in the Middle East, or beyond, will come to understand that our only hope as humans is to live together in peace and harmony.”

The Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities, said:


“We are also here to reflect on those who do not share the same freedom of religion and belief as we do here. The Coptic Christian Faith has, as His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has said, much to teach us about the power of turning the other cheek even during immense suffering.”

“His Grace [Bishop Angaelos] through his tireless work has also reminded us that we, who do have a voice, must use it for those who cannot use theirs. These are troubling times, with so much suffering and it’s easy to feel helpless but each of us can make a difference, can change lives. Little deeds can lead to great moments.”

“Tonight we have been reminded that many around the world face persecution and death simply for having a different faith. It would be easy for us to see this simply as an international problem, a problem for others, but it would be na├»ve and a great mistake for us to assume that the international stays international. Our communities here do not live in isolation from events abroad and sadly prejudices and fears do not stop at borders.”

“As the Integration and Faith Minister, I am committed to improving our communities, to ensuring that bridges are built between communities and that this is a country for everyone. I make that oath to you tonight and ask you to join me in committing to fight to ensure that marginalised voices are heard and that people can follow their faith or belief free from fear, no matter where they live.”


Prior to the service, the Foreign Commonwealth Office hosted a ground-breaking 2-day summit from 19-20 October which brought together more than 50 expert speakers, including His Grace Bishop Angaelos, and over 170 participants from 38 countries, to explore how Freedom of Religion or Belief can help prevent violent extremism and identify opportunities to work together. Over 100 of those participants joined the Coptic community at the annual Nayrouz service in St Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey on 20 October 2016.