Tuesday 13 December 2011

Consensus in the British House of Lords on the state of Christians in the Middle East

Consensus in the British House of Lords
on the state of Christians in the Middle East
Bishop Angaelos

On Friday 9 December 2011, I was privileged to personally attend the House of Lords debate on Christian minorities in the Middle East as the guest of His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury. Led by the Archbishop the debate lasted four and half hours and consisted of ten-minute comments by 29 peers. They all spoke of issues related to the current situation of Christians in light of the so called ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East. Egypt was top of the agenda for many of the speakers, mentioning the decline in the numbers of indigenous Christian communities, and the negative impact that would have on countries where this occurs, as well as pointing out the vast numbers of Christians now emigrating as a result of persecutions due to the perceived lack of protection from their own governments. 

It was noticeable that there was consensus among all who spoke, representing all sides of the House, in terms of recognising the seriousness of the problems currently faced by Christians in Egypt and the Middle East. The speakers emphasised the need to monitor the situation closely in order to ensure the rights of indigenous Christians in the region.

In response to the statements Lord Howell, minister of state in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, presented the government’s view stating, “...governments must respond to demands for the respect of universal human rights by implementing reforms that apply universally to all citizens, regardless of faith, ethnicity or gender, and the central consideration must be the one that has come through again and again in this debate…that religious freedom is a basic human right.” Lord Wood of Anfield, the Shadow Spokesperson stated “Some debates in this Chamber are about issues that divide us, but this is not one of them. The great virtue of this debate is that it is not to argue about policy but to bring to the attention of this House and those who follow its debates the disturbing and deteriorating situation faced by Christians in the Middle East…”

Overall, I was inspired by the sincere and informed statements made by the peers, and I encourage you watch the proceeding: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=9536

Above all, we have confidence in God’s promises and know that His children throughout the Middle East and throughout the world are in His hand, remembering His words: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11. At the same time however, we are also appreciative of those who are in a position to speak regarding basic human rights, and ensuring that they should not be denied to anyone of any faith anywhere in the world.

With all of this we commit all of those in the Middle East, Christian and Muslim alike, to God in our prayers, asking for a peaceful existence and transition for the region during these uncertain times.