Tuesday 24 January 2012

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom on the first anniversary of the uprising in Egypt’s Tahrir Square which took place on the 25th January 2011.

In January of 2011 the whole world looked on with amazement at the energy, faithfulness and strength of the Egyptian people that was poured out in Tahrir Square, and Egyptians themselves looked upon the Square with pride as a visible manifestation of what could be accomplished as they stood together for a common cause. These historic occurrences did not only have a direct impact in Egypt, but were an inspiration for many across the Middle East who followed this lead. It was moving to see Egyptians, Christians and Muslims alike, standing side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder, reclaiming their national identity and resurrecting a spirit of hope for the present and the future.

This should not have been of any surprise however, as Egypt has a cultural history that dates back seven thousand years to the Pharaonic era, and has been blessed by God Himself in the Scriptures. As a result, we have confidence in God, Who is powerful, merciful and victorious, and will maintain His promise to fulfil that blessing, seeking to protect all His people, if we indeed walk in His way.

The revolution was hopeful and desired a transformation from a despotic regime to a more free and fair democratic nation for all, but in reality, at least in the short term, the transition has brought greater social divisions and subsequently given rise to increased attacks on minorities, mainly Christians. We therefore offer our prayers for all those who have suffered at this time as a result of these challenges, as well as those affected by an ailing economy, increasing unemployment and general breakdown in law and order.

Through this expected transitional instability, we are not segregating ourselves and looking purely at our own interests as Christians. We do not fear for Christians or Christianity in Egypt where it has been for two thousand years; Egypt is and will continue to be a place in which Christians witness their Faith on a day-to-day basis. We do however fear for Egypt, because it is Egypt that will weaken if all Egyptians do not stand and work together at this time.

The uprising has not yet reached its ultimate goal, and it is understood that the transition to a fully democratic state, if it is indeed to be reached, will take much time and effort. All necessary steps must be taken to ensure that accountability, justice and complete transparency prevail in the workings of all the apparatus of this state. As an essential part of this process the needless loss of life in Tahrir and Maspero must be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted to fulfil the application of this transparent justice.

This is indeed a turning point in Egypt's contemporary history. It is a time at which there can still be positive reform and the building of a new nation that is cohesive, and instills a sense of citizenship, ownership and responsibility into every Egyptian; ceasing to focus on the person's religious or political stance, but more on his or her contribution and accountability to a single nation state and equality before the law.

This is indeed a time to stand together and call upon God that He may protect and keep His people in Egypt and every place. We have not in the past, and do not intend now, to live in a spirit of defeat or self-pity. The Christian message is one of power and hope; overcoming evil with good, and uncertainty with the knowledge of, and trust in, a true and faithful God.

As we reflect upon this last year, we pray for those who have lost their lives, especially in Tahrir and Maspero. We pray comfort for their families, healing for those who have been injured; and wisdom and strength for all those who still seek to make Egypt a credible and productive and embracing state for every Egyptian. We also pray that God grants wisdom to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the newly-formed parliament, the cabinet and the religious leadership, that they may all work together for the well-being of the nation and its people. We pray especially that the coming days, weeks and months pass without further needless bloodshed.