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

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)

Media and Communications Office


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

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
                                   Media and Communications Office

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


Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
                                   Media and Communications Office

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.


Thursday, 15 September 2016

Press Release: HG Bishop Angaelos attends Freedom of Religion or Belief High Level Conference in Berlin, opened by German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
                                Media and Communications Office

HG Bishop Angaelos attends Freedom of Religion or Belief High Level Conference in Berlin, opened by German Chancellor Angela Merkel

15 September 2016

The Second International Parliamentarians’ Conference, organised by the German CDU/CSU party, took place from 12-13 September 2016 in Berlin, and brought together over 100 members of parliament from 60 countries to discuss the advancement of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) around the world. 

The Parliamentarians’ conference was followed by a High Level Conference in the German Bundestag, with participants including members of parliament, leading academic figures, religious leaders, including His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, and members of the public. The German Chancellor, Dr Angela Merkel, gave the welcome address, in which she spoke of the importance of parliamentarians continuing to champion FoRB in all the countries that they represent.

Throughout the conference, speakers highlighted that the need to address FoRB violations that increasingly occur due to the rise of religious extremism, intolerance, and violence across many parts of the world was a global responsibility, also pointing to the positive role that religion can play in promoting social cohesion where intolerance has led to division within communities.

Speaking from Berlin, Bishop Angaelos said:

“I am attending this conference as a religious leader because I feel that freedom of religion or belief is an issue that is important for all, whether it concerns Christians or anyone else. Religious freedom is a God-given right that we as people of faith must always advocate for, because it intrinsically protects the freedom and dignity which God desires for all humanity indiscriminately as His creation.

While listening to all those who have spoken today it is becoming more and more evident that the breadth and complexity of this issue is one that challenges us all, and requires our collective energy and effort to continue to shed a light of hope in what sometimes appears to be overwhelming darkness.

We must actively and prayerfully continue to support every effort that represents and speaks for those deprived of the right to speak for themselves.”

*Ends*

Resources:

Full programme with a list of speakers available here

More information via www.IPPFoRB.com 


Friday, 2 September 2016

Press Release: Lord Bourne meets with HG Bishop Angaelos to discuss the engagement of faith leaders with the Department for Communities and Local Government


Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

 Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
Media and Communications Office


Lord Bourne meets with HG Bishop Angaelos to discuss the engagement of faith leaders with the Department for Communities and Local Government



2 September 2016

On 1 September 2016, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, was received by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, at The Coptic Orthodox Church Centre. During the visit, discussions took place on matters relating to the state of Christians in the Middle East, Freedom of Religion or Belief around the world, and interfaith engagement and collaboration between faith leaders in the United Kingdom and Her Majesty’s Government.

After a tour of the Cathedral of Saint George with Lord Bourne, Bishop Angaelos said:

“Lord Bourne’s visit today sends a very clear message of his, and his department’s, desire to reach out to and work with local communities. As Christians we believe that we have been entrusted with a stewardship that calls us to engage and be active citizens within our communities, and it is important for us all to discover and pursue the full breadth of opportunity for collaboration at both the national and local level. By working together, we will ensure that our collective experience can be put to good use in portraying the will of the vast majority of British society for a peaceful, prosperous, safe and accepting nation.”

After the visit, Lord Bourne said:

“It was an honour to meet a true leader of the community, His Grace Bishop Angaelos.  His knowledge, passion and commitment to not only the Coptic Christian community but to the country as a whole was evident throughout our meeting. The Coptic Centre and the Cathedral of St. George are remarkable – an example to us all of what a community can do when it works together.”

Speaking on collaboration to an audience of over 700 MPs and Church and community leaders at the annual National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast on 15 June 2016, Bishop Angaelos said:

“We must realise that the current situation is greater than us all; it needs us all to work together…There can no longer be a concept of ‘over there’ because families of those affected in the Middle East are members of your constituencies, our Churches, and our society as a whole…We are one very large community…our paths cross, our experience is one and our journey is one that we must share.”

Bishop Angaelos went on to say:

“Regardless of which House one sits in, which Church one worships in, or indeed which faith one does or does not have, we must work together for the freedom and dignity of human life and speak with a collaborative voice.”
*Ends*

Friday, 22 July 2016

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, on increased attacks against Egypt’s Christian community

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
Media and Communications Office

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, on increased attacks against Egypt’s Christian community

22 July 2016

Egypt is undoubtedly experiencing a formative stage of its contemporary history. Having emerged from uprisings and changes in Government, dealing with resulting pressures on its economy and infrastructure, and with the loss of foreign investment and tourism, it has become more vulnerable to a disturbing wave of radicalism.

One of the manifestations of this radicalisation is that despite a short period of apparent reprieve, it is regrettable that the time has come yet again to speak of heightened, targeted attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt. Tensions against Egypt’s indigenous Christian community have again escalated over the past few months, and will spiral even further if not immediately addressed.

The exponential rise in attacks against Christians and Christian property in recent months can largely be attributed to three main catalysts: inflammatory false rumours and accusations regarding alleged extra-marital relationships between Christians and Muslims, incendiary rumours relating to the building of new churches, and a growing trend towards the direct targeting of priests and their families. At their most brutal, these recent attacks have culminated in the burning of churches and places of worship, the stripping and public parading of 70-year-old Souad Thabet, and the senseless murder of Father Raphael Moussa.

What must be considered very clearly and with great concern however is that an attack on any individual member of a society is an attack on that same society and what it stands for, so our prayers are not only with those who have suffered these unspeakable and horrid violations, but for the society that is undermined and made more vulnerable with each and every one of these incidents. The system of law and order in Egypt is not one for Christians, Muslims or any other individual group of people, but it is for all Egyptians, and so when violated this violation is against all.

While there are clear efforts at the national level in Egypt to attempt to curb such acts of religiously-motivated violence and lawlessness, what we have repeatedly seen at the local level is, at best, carelessness and, at worst, criminal negligence in the reaction and lack of reaction of local security service officials. This gives a clear and direct message that certain crimes will go unchallenged and unchecked, especially when perpetrators are not brought to justice. The resulting sense of impunity not only means a lack of justice for crimes already perpetrated, but also gives greater encouragement to those who will seek to do even more, and more aggressively.

While there is a rejection of these attacks on Christians by the vast majority of Egypt’s 85% Muslim population, themselves often targeted by the same radical and intolerant elements, there is a need for a robust system of law and order that appropriately responds to crime, irrespective of who it is perpetrated by or against. If this does not happen, the concern is that hopes for a more cohesive nation will disappear, and that recent events will give way to a re-emerging religious divide.

In light of all this, it is of course difficult to have a sense of hope or promise in the current situation, but mine still remains rooted in the way Christians in Egypt and elsewhere have faced persecution for millennia. They continue to draw strength from their confidence and trust in an omnipotent God, and forgive through grace that only He can provide. In this, those suffering directly from this persecution provide a great example and inspiration for us not to be engulfed by anger or resentment but in calling for justice, remain forgiving, no matter how hard, and work towards a hopeful future, no matter how seemingly impossible.

The brutal and personal nature of many of the attacks against our brothers and sisters in Egypt warrants our prayers and support for them as they continue to endure heightened levels of persecution while refusing to lose their admirable and resilient spirit, and unyielding ability to forgive according to their Christian devotion and commitment.  We also pray for Egypt and its leadership, hoping that hearts and minds will be led to greater inclusiveness, justice, equality, and refuge for the oppressed, remembering that our Lord Himself once took refuge from persecution within its gracious and welcoming borders.

*Ends*

Resources

Non-exclusive list of recent attacks against the Coptic community in Egypt:
(Sources include the Coptic Church, AP, Coptic Solidarity, International Christian Concern, and World Watch Monitor)

  • Elderly woman, Souad Thabet, paraded naked through the streets by a mob in Menia, Egypt, a number of Christian homes looted and destroyed. No charges to-date. May 2016
  • Christian home in Baidaa village torched by a mob of 5000 men and women, after unsubstantiated rumours claimed that it would become a church. June 2016
  • Coptic Priest Father Rafael Moussa shot and murdered in Al Arish, Sinai. June 2016     
  • 33-year-old Coptic pharmacist, Maged Attia, stabbed and beheaded in Tanta. July 2016
  • Five private Christian homes torched in Abu Yacoub, Minya, after rumours spread that a church was being constructed in the area. July 2016
  • Archangel Mikhail Coptic Church burned in village of Naj al-Nassara in Madamoud. July 2016          
  • 27-year-old Coptic Christian man stabbed to death, priest’s families attacked and others wounded, village of Tahna al-Gabal, Minya. July 2016