Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office
Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
Media and Communications Office
His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London
to the Church of England General Synod on 23 April 2021
Sisters and Brothers, Christ is Risen!
While one part of the Body of Christ has celebrated the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, another part, including my own Church, prepares to go into Palm Sunday, and of course this time is pivotal and is core.
As Christians two things automatically come to mind. The first, is this is a celebration of our hope in the risen Lord, and His victory to liberate us and set us free. Secondly, it is a time that we have seen historically where Christian communities come under attack during these most festive days. The Cross is still being carried by sisters and brothers around the world.
Just last week we heard of the execution of a 62-year-old Coptic Orthodox Christian, Nabil Habashi Salama, executed by ISIS in North Sinai for building a church. 2 days ago, we commemorated the 2nd anniversary of the Easter bombing of the churches in Sri Lanka. Yesterday we commemorated eight years since the Archbishops of the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Churches of Aleppo were abducted in Syria. Today we see the ongoing suffering of Christians in the Tigray area of Ethiopia and, as Bishop Nick mentioned, the continued house arrest of Abouna Antonios, the Canonical Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Tomorrow I will be in Coventry Cathedral with my brother Bishop Hovakim of the Armenian Orthodox Church to mark the victims of the Armenian genocide and the sufferings of their communities until today. At the same time, there are ongoing religious freedom infringements against Christians in Nigeria, Pakistan, China, North Korea and over 120 countries.
Whether we look at what St Cyril of Alexandria said, that “The Son is Himself an advocate, both in name and in reality”, or Nelson Mandela, who said that “The purpose of freedom is to create it for others”, what is evident is that we are called to action.
I would like to pay tribute to Bishop Philip Mountstephen, the Bishop of Truro, for his Independent Review, which confirmed what we have always known; that there is systemic persecution of Christians around the world. This must of course also be seen within the context of persecution of other communities, including the Rohingya, the Uyghurs, and the Bahai communities.
While our freedom is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly Article 18, those rights are given to us by God. Luke 4:18 speaks of our Lord being the Chief Advocate, and in that spirit, we as the Church must continue to be custodians of those rights; custodians of this truth and of the sanctity of life.
I was humbled to be in a room in December of 2018, with the then Foreign Secretary, His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, friends from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors and Aid to the Church In Need, where the Independent Review was announced. We understand the concept of ‘fullness of time’. This ‘fullness of time’ was of a serving Foreign Secretary making representation to a Prime Minister, and then approached the Archbishop of Canterbury, who approached a Bishop of the Church of England, who then took on this feat and was supported by NGO's and advocates; all working together. We worked together along with the Bishop of Truro through Refcemi, our advocacy office, to look at how we could understand and recognise the phenomenon of Christian persecution around the world.
As the Church of England continues to be the church for England, it will realise that it represents much more than our national boundaries, because many people present in Britain are represented abroad. For that reason, and as I discussed with my ecumenical colleagues earlier today, we ask you to recognise this reality, and we commend this item to you, so that at this time, at this moment, when we are called to act, we stand for those less fortunate than us, and we place ourselves at their service.