Thursday 15 December 2011

House of Lords debate regarding Christians in the Middle East

On Friday 9th December 2011, HG Bishop Angaelos attended the House of Lords debate on Christians in the Middle East as guest of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. Led by the Archbishop, the debate lasted four and half hours and consisted of ten minute comments by 29 members of the House, raising issues relating to the current situation of Christians in light of the Arab Spring in Egypt and other countries in the Middle Eastern. Egypt was top of the agenda for many of the speakers, with the mention of the decline of indigenous Christian communities, and the negative impact that would have on countries where this occurs, as well as pointing out the vast numbers of Christians now emigrating as a result of persecutions and a lack of protection from their own governments.  

HG Bishop Angaelos said:

“...we have confidence in God’s promises and know that His children throughout the Middle East and throughout the world are in His hand, remembering His words: 'For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.' We are also appreciative of those who feel the need to speak regarding basic human rights that should not be denied to anyone of any faith anywhere in the world. With all of this we commit all of those in the Middle East, Christian and Muslim alike, to God in our prayers, asking for a peaceful existence and transition for the region during these uncertain times.” 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams stated,

“Issues in Egypt are inevitably among the most immediate in the minds of many of us just now. Of late, the Coptic community has seen levels of emigration rise to unprecedented heights, and in a way that would have been unthinkable even a very few years ago…

Lord Wood of Anfield, Shadow Spokesperson commented,

“Some debates in this Chamber are about issues that divide us, but this is not one of them…The situation and welfare of Christians in the Middle East is a cause for concern for all of us, whether or not we share the Christian faith, partly because we should proudly defend the rights of minorities in the region as elsewhere…the way religious minorities in the Middle East are treated is a litmus test in that most fragile of regions for the presence of the basic levels of tolerance and respect that are needed for genuine stability to emerge.”

Lord Howell, the minister of state, foreign and commonwealth office presented the Government’s view stating, 

“This potential will be realised only if Governments respond to demands for respect of universal human rights by implementing reforms that apply universally to all citizens, regardless of faith, ethnicity or gender, and the central consideration must be the one that has come through again and again in this debate…that religious freedom is a basic human right.” 
It was evident that there was consensus among all who spoke, representing all sides of the House, in terms of recognising the seriousness of the problems currently faced by Christians in Egypt and the Middle East, emphasising the need to monitor the situation closely in order to ensure the rights of indigenous Christians in the region.
Overall, the debate presented inspiring and informed statements by all members of the House of Lords, and can be viewed here: