Thursday 10 December 2015

Statement by HG Bishop Angaelos on International Human Rights Day 2015

International Human Rights Day 2015
Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of
 the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom

10 December 2015

As the world marks yet another Human Rights Day, it has become evident that the past 12 months have proven the need for such a focus and cause to continue to be championed. It would have been welcomed to see those whose rights were violated to have experienced greater freedom, empowerment, prosperity, dignity and safety, yet what has unfolded for many around the world is quite the opposite. We have seen innocent people displaced, tortured, sold into slavery, beheaded and even burned alive, for trying to live the freedom for which they were created.

It may seem simple to perpetrators to violate the rights of those whom they see as less deserving, less entitled, or indeed less human. Until the right of every person to share equally in the gracious gift of life and the appreciation of the sanctity of that life is recognised, these violations will continue, and even be justified, by those who see themselves entitled to determine who does and does not have a right to live, where, and under what conditions.

It is worth stressing that freedom is a right given to all to be experienced individually within a given context, and that context is dependent upon an understanding of self within a cultural identity. What we sometimes see however is some who see themselves as human rights champions and campaigners, imposing their own understanding of freedom upon others, and when their attempts are unsuccessful it is deemed to be the fault of those who could not embrace them. 

In  advocating for, and protecting, the great conventions that safeguard human rights, we must therefore not be prescriptive, or distracted from the fact that protecting those rights should actually be a baseline of our conviction, and realise that people are not only entitled to those rights, but to live with dignity and in a state of safety and security. 

Having said that, we must pay tribute to the immensely valuable and courageous work being done by so many around the world at a great cost to themselves. Advocates, lawyers, politicians, healthcare professionals, aid workers, volunteers and so many more go to great lengths and are subjected to great risks purely for the sake of others. Within a Christian context, they show that there is “no greater love than to lay down one’s life” for another (John 15:3); sometimes quite literally.  These individuals strive tirelessly to uphold principles that are core to our communities, but for many remain a distant dream.

In that same spirit, we all now have an opportunity to exhibit this same humaneness and charity by assisting and even welcoming the many thousands who are displaced and seeking refuge, who are not mere statistics or a phenomenon, but are human beings fleeing conflict and seeking basic human rights and dignity.

Today, we pray particularly for those whose rights to life and dignity continue to be violated, for those who advocate for and serve them, and for those whose hearts are moved to be a vehicle for the provision of support for these many who are deprived of the God-given rights granted to all but enjoyed by so few.