Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of
The Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK
In assessing the recent developments surrounding the release of the film 'Innocence of Muslims' that insults Islam, and the alleged involvement of ‘Coptic Christians’, it is imperative that a clear distinction be made between the vast majority of Coptic Christians, and a minute minority that may choose to use inflammatory and insulting means to further political agenda. Coptic Christians in Egypt, across all churches and denominations, are known to be a peaceful people who have faced persecution for centuries and have never retaliated in any way that would insult or demean any other faith or faith group.
Having the largest Christian presence in the Middle East and numbering in the order of 18 million, Coptic Christians have peacefully coexisted alongside their Muslim brethren for centuries. Despite repeated attacks by religious extremists upon churches and communities, they continue to live a message of love, forgiveness, peace, and tolerance.
In this and in similar cases, it is of course the right of individuals or groups to protest in a responsible manner against conduct that insults what they hold sacred. Having said that, as these protests continue to escalate, sometimes dangerously out of hand, there must be a realisation that in Egypt, its surrounding region, and beyond, it is only local citizens and communities, and the reputation of these states that is being damaged through such aggressive and violent behaviour.
In a changing region that hopes to safeguard the rights of every individual, it is of course unacceptable for anyone to demean or insult another faith, whether it be the film currently in the spotlight or the radical Muslim cleric who burned, spat on and threatened to further desecrate a Holy Bible in a public square in Cairo.
While we must realise and accept that there will always be differences on faith matters between religious communities, it must also be agreed that interaction, conversation, debate, dialogue and even protest must be in a respectful and peaceful manner that safeguards the wellbeing of individuals and the harmony of communities.
We pray for peace to prevail at this challenging time, and healing for those who have suffered injury, pain or offense of any kind; we especially pray for the repose of those who have lost their lives, and comfort to their families and those whom they have left behind.