Monday, 7 June 2021

G7 Prayer Breakfast hosted by the Bishop of Truro and HE Archbishop Angaelos, to address 'State sponsored persecution: The G7 role in upholding Religious Freedom'


Coptic Orthodox Church UK
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Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office


G7 Prayer Breakfast to address ‘State sponsored persecution:
The G7 role in upholding Religious Freedom’

(To register your virtual attendance please visit:

7 June 2021

For immediate release

Nury Turkel, the U.S. Commissioner on International Religious Freedom, named on Fortune's List of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders, will address the G7 Prayer Breakfast in Cornwall on Sunday 13th June 2021, hosted jointly by the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, and His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, and Director of Refcemi (The Coptic Orthodox Office for Advocacy and Public Policy).

The Uyghur-American lawyer and human rights advocate will deliver the keynote address at a breakfast gathering entitled, “State sponsored persecution: The G7 role in upholding religious freedom”, followed by a panel discussion featuring numerous distinguished guests working in the field of Freedom of Religion or Belief. 

In 2019, Bishop Philip chaired the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s independent review of the persecution of Christians across the globe. “Having the G7 meet here in Cornwall provides us with the perfect opportunity to put the spotlight on this key global issue,” says Bishop Philip. “I’m delighted to welcome Nury Turkel here to lead us in our thinking – and to point the way forward to further action.”          

Speaking of the relevance of this event, Archbishop Angaelos said, “Having an event that focuses on freedom of religion or belief in the context of the G7 meeting in Cornwall allows us the opportunity to look at the human cost of inequality and persecution around the world. During this time I know that policy makers will be encouraged to look at what they can do to stand for and with those most deprived of their God-given rights, and of the human dignity we all share.”     

The meeting, hosted in Penzance, due to Covid restrictions, will be limited to an in-person presence of 30 participants, but open to those who register for online webinar attendance.

To register your virtual attendance please visit:


Editors Notes         

The Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review can be accessed here

To find out more about Refcemi, visit         

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Transcript of Address by HE Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, to the Church of England General Synod 2021

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Transcript of Address by
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. 

Thank you.




Friday, 9 April 2021

Statement from His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, on the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh


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Statement from His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, on the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh

9 April 2021

It is with exceptional sadness that I received the news of the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh today. Having had the pleasure of meeting with His Royal Highness on numerous occasions over the past twenty years, I will hold on to fond memories of his intelligence, sharp wit and uplifting sense of humour. Prince Philip’s dedication to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and his avid love for serving others, most notably his admirable support to and of Her Majesty The Queen, has always demonstrated incredible dignity and strength of character.

This will undoubtedly be a time of sadness for Her Majesty and all members of The Royal Family and Household, while also being a time to rejoice in the life of His Royal Highness, and the rich legacy he so generously leaves us.

It is comforting that the departure of His Royal Highness comes so close to the celebration of the Feast of the Resurrection both in the Anglican and the Orthodox calendars, a time at which we reflect on death being a mere departure to a new and more glorious life with our Lord Jesus Christ.

May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.

My prayers and those of my community are with Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family at this difficult time. 

Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London       
Papal Legate to the United Kingdom         

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

The Coptic Orthodox Church marks ‘Contemporary Martyrs Day’ convened by HE Archbishop Angaelos, with Messages from His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, and His Holiness Pope Francis, and addresses by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Koch, Fiona Bruce MP, The Bishop of Truro, and a panel of distinguished guests


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The Coptic Orthodox Church marks ‘Contemporary Martyrs Day’ with Messages from His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, and His Holiness Pope Francis, and addresses by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Koch, Fiona Bruce MP, The Bishop of Truro, and a panel of distinguished guests

16 February 2021

‘Contemporary Martyrs Day’ is marked annually by The Coptic Orthodox Church to commemorate the anniversary of the 21 Libya Martyrs who were murdered by Isis on 15 February 2015 in Libya. It has also been established to commemorate members of the Coptic Orthodox Church who have lost their lives in contemporary history as a result of religious persecution. The commemoration was initially established during a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

To mark the day this year, a webinar was hosted by Refcemi (The Coptic Orthodox Office for Advocacy and Public Policy) and The Coptic Orthodox Diocese of London, under the auspices of His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London and Founder and Director of Refcemi.

Archbishop Angaelos gave context to the webinar by explaining that advocacy initiatives on behalf of the Coptic Orthodox Church stem from centuries of persecution experienced by its community, saying:

“The Coptic Orthodox Church is in a unique place, through its own experience of persecution across the centuries, to speak for those of all faiths and none who continue to suffer today, and it is for this reason that we gather to raise awareness and advocate for those who are not in a position to speak for themselves.”

Addresses from the panel focused on Freedom of Religion or Belief in the broadest sense, touching on communities that continue to suffer marginalisation and persecution as a result of their religious beliefs, especially the ongoing plight of Christian communities worldwide; approximately 80% of the world’s persecuted religious believers are Christian, as documented in The Bishop of Truro’s report[1]. Speakers also addressed the plight of the Uighur and Rohingya Muslim communities, and others that are suffering ongoing violations of their religious freedoms. 

The event included a video message from His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, and a video message of solidarity from His Holiness Pope Francis I, Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. After the video messages, addresses were given by a distinguished panel of senior religious leaders, politicians, advocates, and others, which included:

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
His Eminence Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
His Excellency Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, The Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain
His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Director of Refcemi and Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London
The Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, The Bishop of Truro
The Lord Alton of Liverpool, UK House of Lords 
Fiona Bruce MP, Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief
Mervyn Thomas CMG, Founder President of Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Neville Kyrke-Smith, Chairman of Aid to the Church in Need
Martin Mosebach, Author of ‘The 21’

For all messages and addresses in full, watch the webinar here:

In his message, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II emphasised the importance of keeping the Church’s history and heritage of martyrdom alive and in the consciousness of its members so as to inspire and encourage Faith in adversity. His Holiness also spoke about the many ways in which Christians can live a faithful life of witness, and shared contemplations on what the martyrdom of the men in Libya means for the Christian family of believers.

Reflecting on martyrdom His Holiness said:

“It is true that we are proud of the Faith of all martyrs, who can face death with courage to witness to their Faith, yet we cannot by any means tolerate persecution, a word that should be wiped out of the dictionary of humanity. We also have great faith in the value of human life, which is a gift from God and no man has the right to end human life by any means.

It is well understood by all Christians that witnessing our Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is joyful, even if it is through giving our life. That is why we today celebrate the commemoration of our beloved martyrs of Libya, and all martyrs of Faith with complete understanding of the verse ‘For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:21).”

Contemplating on the life and witness of the Libya Martyrs, His Holiness Pope Francis said:

“They, are our Saints, Saints belonging to all Christians, Saints of all Christian denominations and traditions. They are those who have washed their lives white in the blood of the Lamb…they have received the greatest gift a Christian can ever receive: to bear witness to Jesus Christ to the point of giving his own life.”

“I thank the bishops, and the priests of our sister Coptic Church who have brought them up, and taught them to grow in the Faith. And I thank the mothers of these men, these twenty-one men, who have passed the faith to them…in a dialect which goes beyond languages, the dialect of belonging.

“I join all of you, my brother bishops, present at this commemoration. To you, great and beloved Tawadros, my brother bishop and friend. To you, Justin Welby, who also wanted to participate at this meeting. I also join all the other bishops and priests, but above all the holy faithful people of God who in its simplicity, with its fidelity and infidelities, with its graces and sins, carries forward the confession of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ is Lord.”

The Lord Alton of Liverpool spoke of the ongoing plight of the Muslim Uighur community, and other persecuted communities in various parts of the world. He also highlighted the witness of Matthew Ayariga, a man from Ghana who was martyred alongside the 20 Coptic Christians on 15 February 2015, saying:

“It was so fitting that, in September 2020, Matthew’s mortal remains were taken to Egypt so that he could be buried, alongside those other remarkable men, in the church of the Martyrs of Faith bult in Al Our.  For me, the key point about Matthew Ayariga was that in a truly remarkable – supreme - act of solidarity he was willing to give his liberty and his life rather than walk away from his Coptic brothers. What a contrast to our indifference to the persecution of 250 million Christians worldwide.”

“His act of extraordinary solidarity shames so many of us when we consider our tepid response – often based on political expediency, institutional considerations, or trade and business – to the persecution which is experienced by religious and ethnic groups the world over – discrimination that morphs into persecution; then persecution which morphs into crimes against humanity; and then ultimately into the crime above all crimes, genocide.”

“The Coptic tradition of Christianity has so much to teach us – not least their experience and understanding of endless centuries of discrimination, persecution, and martyrdom…Heroic bravery in the face of evil demands a better response from us – even if it is only a pale imitation of the remarkable act of solidarity by Matthew Ayariga on that deadly beach in Libya in 2015.”

Reflecting on ‘the ecumenism of blood’, The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury said:

“The reality of the ‘ecumenism of blood’ is felt on this day as we commemorate the modern martyrs. It reminds us, and I am reminded too by a fellow bishop in the Church of England who is themselves from a family where there is a modern martyr, that ecumenism and solidarity are with the persecuted, for we are united to them by their blood, it is not just something we feel for the persecuted, or that we stand towards the persecuted; with is the key word.”

“If we are going to be with them, whether it is the 21 martyrs in Libya, and I still remember the horror of that news, or whether it is in Nigeria, or so many other parts of the world, we are there to listen as well as to speak ---more to listen, to be in solidarity with them.”

Fiona Bruce MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, gave an encouraging address on how the UK Government is working to protect Freedom of Religion or Belief worldwide in light of ongoing violations taking place:

“It is a privilege to follow such eminent champions of Freedom of Religion or Belief, and it is therefore in a spirit of humility that I speak as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief to commemorate those who have been martyred and to affirm Freedom of Religion or Belief as a fundamental right of every human being, a right to which the Prime Minister himself is resolutely committed.”

Quoting the Prime Minister, she continued:

“We all know that wherever Freedom of Religion or Belief is under attack, other human rights are under attack as well. We will continue to work closely with like-minded partners to stand up for members of such marginalised communities.”

Highlighting the worsening situation of certain marginalised communities, a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the scapegoating and discrimination they are facing in terms of receiving food, aid and healthcare, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy said:

“And yet, may I encourage you that today there is also growing international awareness of such violations and increasing advocacy on behalf of victims of persecution and the UK is showing itself to be a global leader in this, protecting and promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief is a key human rights priority for our Government.”

The Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, The Bishop of Truro, who was tasked with ‘The Independent Review of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Response to Christian Persecution’, spoke of the steps that the UK Government is taking to promote Freedom of Religion or Belief, especially in light of the Truro Report, and said:

“The net result of all this is that the fundamental human right of Freedom of Religion or Belief and a recognition of its widespread abuse is on the political agenda in the UK in a way that it simply has not been before, and furthermore it would now be very hard to remove it from that agenda. Perhaps the key recommendation of my review is that implementation should be fully reviewed three years on from publication; so the clock is ticking and it is absolutely vital that this issue remains high on the political agenda.”

His Eminence Archbishop AngaelosDirector of Refcemi and Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London concluded the webinar by saying:

“What we are talking about here is not an attack on the Coptic Orthodox Church, or Coptic Orthodox Christians, because there is no monopoly of suffering or persecution. For to persecute is to dehumanise, to commodify, to take away the image and likeness of God that is within and that is at the core of our humanity.”

“Through the witness of the 21 we have learned resilience, we have learned generosity, we have learned graciousness, we have learned to love quite literally those who seek to kill us, and we have learned to forgive, and so we are thankful for their witness.”

“As Christians this is our calling, who we are, we would not be true to ourselves if we do not advocate and stand together for people of all faiths and none, because we all share that humanity…when we stand against oppression and against persecution, we gain, because our humanity is enriched.”

Concluding with Scripture, Archbishop Angaelos said:

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)



More Information:

‘Refcemi’ The Coptic Orthodox Office for Advocacy and Public Policy:

The Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO Support for Persecuted Christians:

15 February 2015: Statement following the brutal murder of Coptic Christians in Libya

6 March 2015: HRH The Prince of Wales and The Archbishop of Canterbury support appeal for families of those brutally murdered in Libya

20 April 2015: Statement following the murder of Ethiopian Christians in Libya

15 May 2018: Comment by HE Archbishop Angaelos on Bodies of Libya Martyrs Repatriated to Egypt

Monday, 21 December 2020

A Christmas Message of Light and Hope


A Christmas Message of Light and Hope
December 2020

'Christmas is a time to remember the fulfilment of promise and realisation of hope in the birth of Jesus Christ. We remember that the Light shone into darkness and transformed it, and likewise, so many have shone as bright lights throughout this past year, as beacons of hope for those around the world who have lived various forms of darkness, ranging from bereavement and illness to persecution and displacement.

This Christmas, we stand together to commit ourselves once again to a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, and to continuing to do all we can to shine a light of hope, promise and kindness into a world that has such need of it.

As we stand together, we give thanks for those who continue to be our inspiration: both those who make our work possible through their tireless commitment, and even more importantly, those for whom we stand and whose resilience and courage continue to be a testimony to their own strength and faithfulness.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a safe, healthy and happy New Year'

The Lord Alton of Liverpool
Crossbench Peer
House of Lords

Archbishop Angaelos
Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London
Founder and Director
Refcemi, Coptic Advocacy

Henrietta Blyth
Open Doors UK & Ireland

Tim Dieppe
Head of Public Policy
Christian Concern

Amanda Khozi Mukwashi
Christian Aid

Neville Kyrke-Smith
National Director
Aid to the Church in Need UK

Tim Livesey
Embrace the Middle East

The Revd Dr Nadim Nassar
Executive Director
Awareness Foundation

Huda Nassar
Director for the Middle East
Awareness Foundation 

Lisa Pearce
Chief Development and Advocacy Officer
Open Doors International

Paul Robinson

Release International

Mark Sheard
World Vision

Mervyn Thomas CMG
Founder President

Gareth Wallace
Head of Policy & Communications
World Vision UK

Prof Paul S Williams
Bible Society

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Statement by His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, on Human Rights Day 2020


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Statement by His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, 
Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London
on Human Rights Day 2020

10 December 2020

As we commemorate Human Rights Day this year while experiencing the devastation of a global pandemic, we are ever more conscious of the importance of human relations and interaction, and the value of every human being. While Covid-19 has indeed affected the whole world, it has increasingly come to light that when tragedies or challenges befall individuals and communities, those who are already vulnerable, marginalised, discriminated against, and/or oppressed, are impacted disproportionately to a much greater extent. Sadly, these same individuals and communities tend to be deprived of the provisions and safeguards ensured by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[1], a document adopted by the United Nations in 1948 affirming the inalienable equal rights of everyone, everywhere.

This year in Britain we have been placed in a position in which we can directly empathise with so many around the world whose ongoing reality encompasses the challenges of poverty, inequality, restrictions on public worship, financial instability, the inaccessibility of education, and so much more. We have become familiar, first-hand and for the first time in over a century, with child poverty and child food poverty, something no society should endure or tolerate. While we are becoming more aware of these vulnerabilities within pockets of our own societies, we must remember what it is to put ourselves in the place of those who are enduring these hardships on a daily basis as part of their daily reality, and feel their pain as we do all we can to alleviate it.

Human Rights Day is another reminder of the equal value we have before God, Who has provided us all with His image and likeness, indiscriminately and without exception. It is also a reminder that we are entrusted with the protection of human dignity and the value of human life that He has provided for each and every one of us. Where we see injustice in the application, or lack thereof, of those rights, we must voice concern, advocate for, and stand by, those whose rights are denied, remembering the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that “not to speak is to speak, and not to act is to act”. When we stand for one another’s rights, we stand for our own.

We have seen such wonderful acts of compassion, solidarity, and comradery during the pandemic here in Britain and around the world, sometimes from unexpected places. We have also seen and continue to witness selfless acts of bravery, courage and kindness from individuals and groups in a variety of sectors, and that is the spirit of a diverse humanity working in harmony. That is the spirit that the world needs, and is the spirit of Human Rights Day; to ensure kindness, respect and dignity for all, even those beyond the reach of our immediate environments.

Today and every day we pray for our world and for every one of its members, all of whom stand equal before God, and are equally deserving to be seen and catered for by humankind. We also pray for human rights defenders and advocates who are often in the most dangerous parts of the world, and continue to be the voice and hope of those for whom they courageously and selflessly stand.

The sentiments of equality are not merely philosophical, but must be translated into meaningful terms and realised action. This year has taught us that the vulnerability of any individual or nation adds to our own corporate vulnerability, and so in acknowledging and safeguarding the rights and wellbeing of others, we play our part in doing so for the whole world.


Monday, 16 November 2020

His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London on the suffering of communities in Nagorno-Karabahk, Ethiopia and Eritrea


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His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London on the suffering of communities in Nagorno-Karabahk, Ethiopia and Eritrea

16 November 2020

We are currently becoming more aware of the magnitude and scale of the incredible suffering endured by communities as a result of war and conflict in Nagorno-Karabahk, Ethiopia and Eritrea. The resulting loss of life and displacement of peoples has tragically soared, and we have witnessed increasing vulnerability amongst young and old already impacted by and struggling with the global Covid pandemic.

I have been in conversation, over these past weeks, with the clergy and leadership of the Armenian, Ethiopian and Eritrean Churches both here in Britain and globally to develop a clearer understanding of the situation on the ground in their home nations and to see how we can offer greater support at this time. In the interim, we continue to pray repose for the departed, comfort for the bereaved, healing for the injured and traumatised, safety for the displaced and peace for all involved, as we pray wisdom for all those in leadership and entrusted with the lives and well-being of their people.

We are taught in Scripture that “when one part of the Body suffers we all suffer” (1 Corinthians 12:26) and so, at this time we share in the suffering of members of our sister Armenian Apostolic, Ethiopian Tewahedo, and Eritrean Orthodox Churches and their communities, along with their wider communities that encompass Christians of all denominations, and people of all faiths and none.


Friday, 5 June 2020

Reflection from His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos on the brutal murder of George Floyd

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Reflection from His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos,
Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London on the brutal murder of George Floyd

5 June 2020

As the world struggles against the silent and invisible Covid-19 virus, the vile disease of racism rears its ugly head once again with the senseless and brutal murder of George Floyd. While we recognise the deadliness of a pandemic and are living that reality today, for far too long the threat and damage of prejudice and racism have often been ignored. The outcry against this brutal murder speaks not only to the loss of one man’s life in Minnesota, but is in response to a much greater and more prevalent undercurrent that many have been unwilling to admit or indeed speak up about.

In speaking over the past week to friends from some of Britain’s Afro-Caribbean communities, I have heard more about what it means to be targeted as a member of those communities and why this crime has opened so many wounds; some from the past and some ongoing. Those who are speaking out are at times demonised for jumping on a proverbial ‘bandwagon’, and those who are not, are seen as not caring or even adding to a far too rife and dangerous trend of silence in the face of injustice. The reality is however, that in cases of injustice, we must all do what we can to advocate. This advocacy here in the United Kingdom must be carried out with the knowledge and understanding of the complexity and diversity within Britain’s Afro-Caribbean communities, and there is no room for generalisations or stereotypes when discussing issues of race and colour.

In looking at the occurrences of the last week, and considering what we can practically do, I was led to reflect on this verse from the book of Micah 6:8 where we read “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
To “do justly” is to ensure that the same rights, privileges and responsibilities apply to every individual, irrespective of ethnicity, colour, gender, or any other distinguishing factor, just as the irrefutable and unnegotiable justice of God is extended to us all, no matter who we are. While these words are of course simple to say, it will take policy makers, religious leaders, community leaders, and indeed each and every one of us, to safeguard these core tenets of our humanity.

To “love mercy” is in direct contrast to the brutality we have witnessed in the murder of George Floyd. There is nothing merciful about seeing a young man, black or otherwise, lying on the ground with a knee on his neck pleading for his life, until he quite literally breathes his last, exclaiming “I can’t breathe”. A man who, in his vulnerability calls for his mother who has preceded him, was dehumanised, and humiliated. What makes this crime even more deplorable is that the perpetrators were those entrusted with, and who had taken an oath to protect, that very man, and everyone else in that and every community.

To “walk humbly with the Lord” is to journey with Him and see the world and others as He sees it and them, dealing with and responding to the pain of injustice as He does. When we walk humbly alongside those who hurt, whatever their situation, it must be about them and not us. It is about their pain, their experience, their perception and their reality, and not what we deem it to be. It is about understanding and responding to that pain and frustration, especially when it has been so long-lasting and, at times, systemic.

The onus is on us, if we value justice, to take responsibility for our societies, our communities, our workplaces, our Churches, our religious places, and our own families; to courageously weed out any injustice, prejudice or malice that may exist there, and even from the depth of our own hearts.

In looking at this whole situation, it is very easy to ‘other’. It is not useful to anyone to express pity from a distance, but rather, we must put ourselves in the place of that person and express a desire and commitment to journey with him or her in solidarity. Even in othering the perpetrator, thinking that they alone must do better, we may neglect to look into our own hearts, consciences and actions to judge how guilty we ourselves may be of that same crime, albeit in a different form.

At this time of pain, we pray repose for the soul of George Floyd, comfort for his family, friends and community who mourn him, and healing for our sisters and brothers in the Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean communities in the United States of America and here in our own Nation. We also pray God’s peace and blessing at this time over so many struggles in our world, that we may, in standing alongside one another, be able to be each other’s safety, strength and protection, never needing to hear those haunting words again, “I can’t breathe”, neither literally nor metaphorically.


Thursday, 10 October 2019

Coptic New Year celebrated in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, with messages from Her Majesty the Queen, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury and His Holiness Pope Francis

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Coptic New Year celebrated in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, with messages from Her Majesty the Queen, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury and His Holiness Pope Francis

10 October 2019

Messages from Her Majesty The Queen, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, The Most Reverend Archbishop Justin Welby and His Holiness Pope Francis, were read during the annual Coptic New Year Service at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey on 8 October 2019. The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster welcomed over four hundred and fifty guests from the House of Lords and House of Commons, the Diplomatic Corps, the Foreign Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, and humanitarian and advocacy organisations, various ecumenical and inter-religious guests, and members of the Coptic Orthodox community in the United Kingdom.
After his welcome, His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, thanked The Very Reverend Dr John Hall for his support during his time as Dean of Westminster, and wished him every blessing for the next stages of his ministry, presenting a Coptic icon of St John the Beloved, on behalf of the Coptic Orthodox community in Britain.
The traditional Coptic vespers service was officiated by His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, who delivered a sermon on the theme of unity and solidarity, encouraging congregants to be light in darkness, and unified in bringing hope to all, despite challenges faced.

Towards the end of the evening, addresses were delivered by His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain, His Excellency Tarek Adel, Ambassador of Egypt to the United Kingdom, The Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations, and Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, and The Viscount Younger of Leckie, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Faith and Communities.

The message from Her Majesty The Queen, read by The Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, conveyed warm wishes to the clergy and congregation of the Coptic Orthodox Church, as well as all in attendance; also honouring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their Christian Faith. His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, also extended warm wishes to the Coptic Orthodox community in his message read by The Right Reverend James Newcome DL, Bishop of Carlisle, offering heartfelt prayers for those who continue to face persecution and suffering for their Faith.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, in his message to the Coptic Orthodox community, presented by The Right Reverend Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, said:

“It is my great pleasure to send you greetings as you celebrate Nayrouz once again…At new year we look back at the years past and forward to the years ahead. As we look back we remember all those who have gone before us, not least those who have shed their blood as martyrs for the faith. Those who go before make us what we are today.”

“May each one of us, united in our faith in Jesus Christ, be the one who announces peace, salvation and the Kingdom of God in his world.”

His Holiness Pope Francis, in a message presented by His Excellency Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams, Apostolic Nuncio, recalled the fraternal bond with His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, and offered warm wishes to the Coptic Orthodox community:

“Informed of this observance, Pope Francis, in recalling the bond that united him with his dear brother His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, addresses a special greeting to the Coptic Orthodox Church, which has been able to give a true testimony of Faith and love even in the most difficult moments.

Pope Francis takes this opportunity of the beginning of the Coptic Year to express again his best wishes for peace and health, together with gladness and appreciation of the spiritual ties that unite the See of Peter with the See of Mark.”

His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, in his sermon, spoke of the reason for celebrating the Coptic New Year in St Margaret’s Church, saying:

“The reason we come back to this place every year, is so that we can gather together in prayer, but also because this place, where it is situated, who it serves, and what it stands for, is light in darkness.

We have seen so much turmoil over the past few months, even years, yet it is only in places like this, places of prayer, places of grace, places of unity and solidarity, that we are able to shine light in darkness.”

Explaining the meaning behind the Feast of Nayrouz, His Eminence continued:

“The Coptic Calendar begins in 284AD, the start of the reign of Emperor Diocletian, to honour the hundreds of thousands, and some even estimate millions, of Egyptian Christians who paid the ultimate price for their Christian Faith, during his reign. Since then, Coptic Orthdox Christians have continued to witness to their Faith in Egypt and around the world, often facing challenges, with remarkable graciousness, patience, resilience, and forgiveness.”

His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas, began his address with a reminder of the significance of reflecting on the past as well as looking forward to the future:

“It is important that we recall that in ancient times faithful communities celebrated this as the beginning of the New Year, to also remind ourselves to a commitment to change; perhaps it is that ideal of a New Year resolution, to change our ways and our lives and our hearts and to allow our ways of the past, our sins, to remain there.” 

“May this new year be the year of grace, and joy and happiness and for the people of your communities throughout the world, may the words of the Prophet King David be fulfilled, for he said to God ‘You have changed my mourning into dancing’, and may there be no mourning for the Coptic people and the Orthodox communities, but may they be filled with righteousness, joy and even dancing, and dancing from this world to the Kingdom of God.”

His Excellency Tarek Adel, commended the Coptic Orthodox community for their courage and faith during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, saying:

“We are indeed indebted to the martyrs of Egypt, they shone as beacons of light and gave the people strength and faith.”

His Excellency went on to say:

“From this great place of worship I want to stress that peace and harmony, and the most important thing, coexistence, should be the guiding principle of any civilised society. We are proud that Egypt has the largest Christian community in the Middle East, and we intend to keep on working to create and enhance a conducive environment for all Egyptians to prosper and reach their full potential regardless of their faith. We also hope that those who insist on building walls, or spreading fear, will come to understand that our only hope as humans is to live together in peace and harmony.”

“I also take this opportunity to convey the warm greetings of His Excellency Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of Egypt.”   

The Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon spoke of the Coptic Orthodox Church’s official engagement in his address, the importance of people of faith advocating for one another:

“For people of all faiths and beliefs, marking the New Year is an opportunity both to look back and reflect, but also to look forward with hope and optimism.”

“There are many people I wish to thank, but perhaps none more so than His Eminence… He is not only a wise counsel but very much in the truest sense a sincere friend.”

“I pay tribute to the many selfless individuals around the world who continue to campaign for the importance and priority of religious freedom, who inspire us with their own example and courage. And everywhere I go I live by my own belief, of my own faith, that surely the greatest test of our own faith is the conviction we show in standing up for the faith or belief of others.”

The Viscount Younger of Leckie, commended the Coptic Orthodox community in the United Kingdom and echoed His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos in speaking strongly on solidarity:

“It would be remiss of me not to commend the exceptional contributions made by members of the British Coptic Orthodox community, many of whom I know go to great lengths to support the most vulnerable people in our society, including those threatened with homelessness. Your acts speak to the incredible selflessness and ultraism of your community. Such displays of kindness and generosity show Britain at its best and set an example for us all to follow.”

“Your Eminence, you have spoken with great passion and wisdom on the significance of solidarity and friendship. The importance of renewing and strengthening those ties that bind us together. This is a vision that I wholeheartedly endorse, we remain the world’s most successful, multi-faith, multi-ethnic nation and London is the world’s greatest, most diverse city. That is only really possible when we do not take it for granted, and that is why it is important for all of us to ask ourselves what more can I do to serve my community, to whom can I extend the hand of friendship, how can I help a neighbour in need.”

The concluding words in the sermon of His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, encapsulated the overall ethos of the evening:

“At this time of great anxiety and uncertainty in many parts of the world, as well as our own, it is both significant and important that we gather this evening in prayer, from across the spectrum of the Church, faith, belief, and the breadth of our community and stand as one in our ongoing journey and relationship, and our commitment to one another.

“We are an icon of what is it to be one in our diversity. We are different and that difference projects the beauty of God’s creation, and yet in that difference we must respect one another, love one another, forgive one another, be reconciled to one another and put ourselves aside for one another.”

“Tonight, as we gather, we give thanks for this unity, we give thanks for this icon, we give thanks for the life that we have, and we give thanks for the life we are promised even beyond the grave.”