His Grace Bishop Angaelos to be conferred
the honour of Officer of the Most
Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to
International Religious Freedom
It was announced on 13 June 2015 that His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom would be conferred the honour of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty The Queen, 'For Services to International Religious Freedom.'
The honours system, founded during the First World War in 1917 by George V, now serves to recognise people who have made achievements in public life and committed themselves to serving and helping Britain. Over the past years Bishop Angaelos has worked tirelessly to advocate for religious freedom, releasing statements calling for the protection of God-given rights and freedoms for all, testifying in the United States Congress on human rights abuses, taking part in a variety of media interviews to raise awareness of a number of issues in the Middle East, and organising and engaging in numerous ecumenical, governmental and non-governmental meetings and events focusing on the protection of basic human rights and freedoms.
Through his work, the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom is a supporter of, and works in conjunction with, the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, and Bishop Angaelos as founder and convenor of, and driving force behind the Asylum Advocacy Group, works to help the vulnerable. His efforts have brought together organisations and parties who have never previously collaborated and the group has seen an effective result with the UK Home Office border agency regarding asylum cases, with a continuity that other organisations have not experienced.
In 2013 he became the first Coptic clergyman to testify in the United States Congress. Approached to attest to human rights abuses in Egypt since the 2011 uprising due to his knowledge and public voicing of the matter, he spoke of human rights and religious freedom violations facing Christians, secularists, women, those suffering poverty and various minorities. He is a pioneer in advocating for human rights and freedom for all as his testimony, among other efforts, has given a voice to people of all faiths.
In April 2015 at an international conference in Bari, Italy addressing extreme challenges faced by Christians in the Middle East, Bishop Angaelos called for greater collaboration between Churches, governments, organisations, and similar initiatives that would lead to greater results for all. He warned that “a lack of coordination will lead to a fragmentation of what should be a very powerful voice of advocacy, as well as duplication and the wastage of resources that are already limited in light of the immense need.”
Highlighting the need to refer to minority communities in the Middle East more precisely in discourse and in the media, Bishop Angaelos went on to say: “This issue must be transformed from one of ‘minorities’ to that of indigenous people who have had their roots in these lands for not only decades or centuries but millennia. They are an intrinsic part of, and a stabilising force in, the region, and losing them would be a loss to the whole world as they are, through their continuous presence, part of the history, institution and constitution of the Middle East.”
Since the establishment of the Media and Communications Office in the United Kingdom in 2011, Bishop Angaelos’ statements have been far-reaching, calling for justice and the protection of basic rights and freedoms. His statements to-date have been particularly striking due to their all-encompassing nature, speaking for the rights of all communities, not merely his own.
His message of forgiveness following the brutal murder of Coptic Christians in Libya in February 2015 had a significant impact on the media coverage of that event and helped to further raise awareness of the plight of so many killed for their faith, and their families and communities who are left behind. In launching the ‘When Left Behind’ appeal for the families of those who died in Libya, Bishop Angaelos attracted comment and support from figures such as His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, and numerous others in their private and official capacities, both nationally and internationally.
Bishop Angaelos continues to work in the sphere of international religious freedom, and on receiving news of his award, said:
“I am humbled by this award because I see it as my role and duty to advocate for religious freedom as part of my ministry. While I am thankful for this great honour, it also comes with a sense of sadness that in the 21st Century we still need to defend people’s God-given rights and freedoms in this way. I consider this an award to every person who has worked with and supported me along the way and pray that God rewards and blesses them for all they have done and all they will continue to do. I must also express my sincere gratitude to Her Majesty The Queen and the Prime Minister for considering this cause worthy of such public acknowledgement.”
Watch various talks and interviews with His Grace Bishop Angaelos concerning International Religious Freedom via www.Youtube.com/CopticMediaUK and read his statements via www.CopticMediaUK.com. Follow His Grace on twitter via www.Twitter.com/BishopAngaelos