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