Friday, 22 July 2016

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, on increased attacks against Egypt’s Christian community

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
Media and Communications Office

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, on increased attacks against Egypt’s Christian community

22 July 2016

Egypt is undoubtedly going through a formative stage of its contemporary history. Having emerged from uprisings and changes in Government, dealing with resulting pressures on its economy and infrastructure, and with the loss of foreign investment and tourism, it has become more vulnerable to a disturbing wave of radicalism.

One of the manifestations of this radicalisation is that despite a short period of apparent reprieve, it is regrettable that the time has come yet again to speak of heightened, targeted attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt. Tensions against Egypt’s indigenous Christian community have again escalated over the past few months, and will spiral even further if not immediately addressed.

The exponential rise in attacks against Christians and Christian property in recent months can largely be attributed to three main catalysts: inflammatory false rumours and accusations regarding alleged extra-marital relationships between Christians and Muslims, incendiary rumours relating to the building of new churches, and a growing trend towards the direct targeting of priests and their families. At their most brutal, these recent attacks have culminated in the burning of churches and places of worship, the stripping and public parading of 70-year-old Souad Thabet, and the senseless murder of Father Raphael Moussa.

What must be considered very clearly and with great concern however is that an attack on any individual member of a society is an attack on that same society and what it stands for, so our prayers are not only with those who have suffered these unspeakable and horrid violations, but for the society that is undermined and made more vulnerable with each and every one of these incidents. The system of law and order in Egypt is not one for Christians, Muslims or any other individual group of people, but it is for all Egyptians, and so when violated this violation is against all.

While there are clear efforts at the national level in Egypt to attempt to curb such acts of religiously-motivated violence and lawlessness, what we have repeatedly seen at the local level is, at best, carelessness and, at worst, criminal negligence in the reaction and lack of reaction of local security service officials. This gives a clear and direct message that certain crimes will go unchallenged and unchecked, especially when perpetrators are not brought to justice. The resulting sense of impunity not only means a lack of justice for crimes already perpetrated, but also gives greater encouragement to those who will seek to do even more, and more aggressively.

While there is a rejection of these attacks on Christians by the vast majority of Egypt’s 85% Muslim population, themselves often targeted by the same radical and intolerant elements, there is a need for a robust system of law and order that appropriately responds to crime, irrespective of who it is perpetrated by or against. If this does not happen, the concern is that hopes for a more cohesive nation will disappear, and that recent events will give way to a re-emerging religious divide.

In light of all this, it is of course difficult to have a sense of hope or promise in the current situation, but mine still remains rooted in the way Christians in Egypt and elsewhere have faced persecution for millennia. They continue to draw strength from their confidence and trust in an omnipotent God, and forgive through grace that only He can provide. In this, those suffering directly from this persecution provide a great example and inspiration for us not to be engulfed by anger or resentment but in calling for justice, remain forgiving, no matter how hard, and work towards a hopeful future, no matter how seemingly impossible.

The brutal and personal nature of many of the attacks against our brothers and sisters in Egypt warrants our prayers and support for them as they continue to endure heightened levels of persecution while refusing to lose their admirable and resilient spirit, and unyielding ability to forgive according to their Christian devotion and commitment.  We also pray for Egypt and its leadership, hoping that hearts and minds will be led to greater inclusiveness, justice, equality, and refuge for the oppressed, remembering that our Lord Himself once took refuge from persecution within its gracious and welcoming borders.

*Ends*

Resources

Non-exclusive list of recent attacks against the Coptic community in Egypt:
(Sources include the Coptic Church, AP, Coptic Solidarity, International Christian Concern, and World Watch Monitor)

  • Elderly woman, Souad Thabet, paraded naked through the streets by a mob in Menia, Egypt, a number of Christian homes looted and destroyed. No charges to-date. May 2016
  • Christian home in Baidaa village torched by a mob of 5000 men and women, after unsubstantiated rumours claimed that it would become a church. June 2016
  • Coptic Priest Father Rafael Moussa shot and murdered in Al Arish, Sinai. June 2016     
  • 33-year-old Coptic pharmacist, Maged Attia, stabbed and beheaded in Tanta. July 2016
  • Five private Christian homes torched in Abu Yacoub, Minya, after rumours spread that a church was being constructed in the area. July 2016
  • Archangel Mikhail Coptic Church burned in village of Naj al-Nassara in Madamoud. July 2016          
  • 27-year-old Coptic Christian man stabbed to death, priest’s families attacked and others wounded, village of Tahna al-Gabal, Minya. July 2016




Friday, 8 July 2016

Press Release: Meeting of Church leaders in Sydney to discuss situation of Christians in the Middle East, followed by an address by HG Bishop Angaelos on Global Displacement at a Public Forum

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
                                   Media and Communications Office

Press Release: Meeting of Church leaders in Sydney to discuss situation of Christians in the Middle East, followed by an address by HG Bishop Angaelos on Global Displacement at a Public Forum

8 July 2016
As part of his yearly pastoral visit to Australia, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, addressed the New South Wales (NSW) Ecumenical Council on Christians in the Middle East on 28 June 2016, later giving an address on global displacement at a Public Forum in Sydney.
Addressing the NSW Ecumenical Council, Bishop Angaelos gave thanks to the Council's President, Rev John Barr, and its General Secretary, the Very Rev Fr Shenouda Mansour, for raising the issues of persecution and turmoil in the Middle East, saying after the meeting:
“There is no time like the present for solidarity, because the world is in such need for unity. Gatherings such as this present a beacon of hope, especially at a time of such global uncertainty.”
His Grace spoke of the complexity of the Middle East situation, stressing the need to address the factors that have contributed to it over the years, saying:
“Throughout the Middle East there has been an organic, and sometimes systemic, yet gradual prejudice, marginalisation and alienation of Christians and minorities allowed to continue over decades, and as I have said in the past, this does not have to continue on our watch; we can and should speak and act against it.”
Going on to highlight the plight of people of other faiths and none, Bishop Angaelos continued:
“To infuse and maintain the core values and Christian principles of love, freedom, equality and faithfulness, we must advocate for the benefit of all indiscriminately. As a Christian I cannot be selective as to who I love, honour, or forgive. We must also not forget to give thanks to many of our Muslim brethren in the region working tirelessly and at great personal risk to safeguard the rights of Christians and others.”
Bishop Angaelos concluded his address by calling for greater collaboration between Churches, saying:
“The responsibility of Christian charity, generosity and hospitality is undeniable, so we must continue to promote solidarity, unity, light and hope.”
Later in the day His Grace Bishop Angaelos delivered an address on the situation of refugees at a Public Forum in Sydney on Global Displacement.  Bishop Angaelos spoke about refugee week being an important part of our global calendar as a result of the current crisis, and urged listeners to consider the humanity of every refugee, as an individual entitled to dignity and respect.
Explaining that Egypt is a country that historically provided refuge for the Holy Family, Bishop Angaelos said:
“As the Church of Egypt we are part of a country that accepted our Lord Jesus Christ as a refugee fleeing persecution, and so we indeed see the face of Christ in every refugee.”
Speaking of the role of Christians in responding to global displacement he continued:
“Our calling as Christians in particular is to represent all, to be light to all, and to give hospitality and charity to all indiscriminately, especially in the current climate. There is no single life that is more valuable than another, and as a Christian I cannot be selective as to who I love, forgive or provide for...the context of our humanity is one.”
Shedding light on the genuine struggle of refugees he said:
“These are not people seeking economic prosperity, they are men, women and children fleeing war-torn, poverty-stricken, near-anarchic states merely to find the safety and dignity to which they are entitled. To live with dignity is not a luxury but a God-given right that we must all respect, and do our utmost to secure for all.”
Going on to highlight the importance of collaboration, Bishop Angaelos said:
“We must work to give a context of peace and hope, and share the Christian message of love not hate, hope not fear, inclusion not exclusion and compassion not intolerance. Beside its pastoral and spiritual role, the Church is the biggest NGO in the world, the biggest provider of aid, sustenance and support, with the grounds and means to advocate, so let us continue to focus on people and not statistics, every life is sacred and important.”
His Grace concluded by quoting Leviticus 19:34:
“The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers...”
During the panel discussion that followed addresses, Bishop Angaelos was asked about the security threat posed by the refugee crisis, to which he responded:
“Of course it is a complicated situation and of course it comes with potential risks. Although this is a highly emotive and polarising issue, we must avoid merely being in polar opposite camps, but work together to find and implement practical systems of security assessment, instead of stereotyping every refugee and asylum seeker as a potential terrorist.”
The meeting was moderated by Mandy Tibbey, and the second keynote speaker was Tamara Domicelj, Regional Refugee Protection Advisor with Act for Peace. The panellists were Ms Carmen Lazar OAM, Community Settlement Services Assyrian Resource Centre, Mr Chey Mattner, Executive Officer of the Australian Lutheran World Service, Lieut-Colonel Samuel Pho, National Secretary of the Salvation Army, and Mr Sarkis Mouradian, Co-Convenor of the Commission on the Middle East, NSW Ecumenical Council.
*Ends*

Friday, 24 June 2016

EU Referendum: Statement by HG Bishop Angaelos


Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, following the results of the EU Referendum

24 June 2016

Over this past week, the United Kingdom has experienced a series of significant, challenging and sometimes painful milestones. With the long-awaited results of the EU referendum, and the tragic death of Jo Cox MP in the lead-up, emotions are high and there is potential for hostility and divisiveness to flourish. There is however the more positive outcome, that these events serve as a catalyst for a greater unity and a collective stance for the good of all.

While Jo’s tragic and wasteful death was unequivocally horrific and heart-breaking, it also gave rise to overwhelming acts of generosity from the general public and unrivalled comradery in the Houses of Parliament. This tragedy also sparked a significant conversation on the importance of solidarity and indiscriminate compassion for humanity, with the hashtags #LoveLikeJo and #MoreInCommon emerging to diffuse divisive rhetoric and promote understanding in the public sphere.

It is in this light and sentiment, and with the outcome of the EU referendum, the United Kingdom must now pull together, as it has so often done in the past, despite clear differences in opinion and direction. Division must not be allowed to take hold, and divisive rhetoric must not take root. While many would have preferred to see the UK remain in the EU, now is the time for us all as a nation to accept the decision that we have reached together through the democratic processes we have upheld for centuries, and indeed advocate for across the world. It is important for us to commence the healing process that is needed after these months of committed campaigning, and to comfort all who are now fearful of the future, and suffering the distress of uncertainty, especially due to the immediate effects on the economy.

Regardless of what the future holds for the United Kingdom we can be certain that we are in the hands of a mighty God Who is unchanging and with us throughout our various challenges. It is our role as Christians, not only to be stewards and active citizens within our countries, but to provide holistic support for all who find these events overwhelming and distressing.        

We pray for the Prime Minister, our parliament, and all those entrusted with the leadership of these great nations, confident that the United Kingdom will find a way to embark on this new stage in history, together united.


*Ends*

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Press Release: HG Bishop Angaelos gives Keynote Address on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East to over 700 MPs and other guests in the Houses of Parliament, later addressing 50 High Commissioners and Ambassadors in the State Rooms at the Palace of Westminster

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
                                   Media and Communications Office

HG Bishop Angaelos gives Keynote Address on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East to over 700 MPs and other guests in the Houses of Parliament, later addressing 50 High Commissioners and Ambassadors in the State Rooms at the Palace of Westminster


14 June 2016

On 14 June 2016 His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, delivered the keynote address on the situation of Christians in the Middle East at the annual National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast (NPPB).  During his address Bishop Angaelos spoke specifically on the persecution of Christians and minority communities, and the millions subsequently displaced and living as refugees. His Grace addressed an audience of over 700 attendees including Members of the House of Lords, House of Commons, civic and faith leaders, ambassadors, and CEOs of advocacy organisations and NGOs. The Archbishop of Canterbury was also in attendance. The gathering was welcomed by the Lord Speaker, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and Fiona Bruce MP, Chair of this year’s Parliamentary Breakfast.

The NPPB is the largest gathering of any kind in parliament throughout the year. The event is held with the permission of the Speaker and the Lord Speaker and is an annual recognition of the contribution that Christianity makes to the national life of the United Kingdom. While themes of previous events have focused on topics of national impact, this is the first to address a global issue of this scale.

In his welcome, The Right Hon John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, said:
 “‘The Church in the Middle East’ is a theme never more relevant than it is today. It is a magnificently chosen theme that will continue to be relevant at least until some of the prevailing discord…of which certainly there is an abundance, is either moderated or better still overcome altogether.”

In her welcome, The Lord Speaker, The Baroness D’Souza said:
“This breakfast theme…could not be more timely to explore the need for tolerance and understanding. I greatly look forward to hearing…as to how we make steps, if not leaps, towards this.”

In her welcome, Fiona Bruce MP highlighted that the attendance at this year’s Breakfast surpassed previous years, with over 150 MPs and peers and 730 people in attendance, saying:
“It is particularly encouraging that so many members of parliament are attending together with religious leaders from their constituencies…the fact that so many parliamentarians and peers are here today does, I believe, confirm their deep concern…”

“Let us seek to ensure that we in the United Kingdom are doing everything we can to stand up and be a voice for the voiceless in the Middle East, both to those who share our Faith, and those of other faiths or none.”

Speaking of the work that Bishop Angaelos has done in the area of religious freedom, she continued:
“I am particularly delighted and grateful that His Grace Bishop Angaelos will address us this morning as he has tirelessly advocated on behalf of the Church throughout the Middle East in recent years…”

In his address, Bishop Angaelos spoke directly to parliamentarians saying:
We often hold you to account for the decisions you make, yet often forget to hold ourselves to account to pray for you as you make those decisions. In the coming weeks those prayers will be more important because of the decisions that are going to be made for the future of Britain.”

Speaking of Christians in the Middle East, Bishop Angaelos said:
“Christians in the Middle East are indigenous people and reject minority status. They see themselves as intrinsic members, and indigenous peoples.”

He continued:
“As religious and civic leaders, we have an opportunity and responsibility to change the narrative and expectation of the Middle East from one of hopelessness and conflict to one of hope and promise.

We need to address the reality of this situation, that there has been a systemic, yet gradual prejudice, marginalisation and alienation of Christians and minorities allowed to continue over decades. This does not have to continue on our watch…”

Calling for collaboration, he went on to say:
“We must realise that the current situation is greater than us all; it needs us all to work together…There can no longer be a concept of ‘over there’ because families of those affected in the Middle East are members of your constituencies, our Churches, and our society as a whole…We are one very large community…our paths cross, our experience is one and our journey is one that we must share.”

“Regardless of which House one sits in, which Church one worships in, or indeed which faith one does or does not have, we must work together for the freedom and dignity of human life and speak with a collaborative voice.”

Elaborating of the calling and responsibility of Christians to advocate indiscriminately for all, Bishop Angaelos said:

“We are called in Scripture (Luke 4:18) to follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who came to ‘preach the gospel to the poor…heal the broken-hearted…proclaim liberty to the captives…set at liberty those oppressed.’ To be a Christian is to be an exceptional human being at the service of all humanity, for even the ‘Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45)”

“Our struggle is not just for Christians, but for human dignity. To pursue God-given rights is to serve the whole of humanity indiscriminately. As a Christian I cannot be selective as to who I love, honour or even forgive, as we are instructed by our Lord to ‘love our neighbour as ourselves.’ “There is no other commandment greater…” (Mark 12:31).

Shedding light on the hopeful witness of Christians in the Middle East, Bishop Angaelos concluded:
“The Church is defiant, the Church is resilient, the Church is alive.”

After the event Bishop Angaelos spoke to 50 High Commissioners and Ambassadors from a variety of faith traditions at a separate event in the State Rooms of the Palace of Westminster.

*Ends*

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Friday, 10 June 2016

HG Bishop Angaelos attends service of thanksgiving marking Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday at St Paul’s Cathedral

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
                                   Media and Communications Office

HG Bishop Angaelos attends Service of Thanksgiving marking Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th Birthday at St Paul’s Cathedral

  

10 June 2016

On the 10 June 2016 His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, attended the national service of thanksgiving in honour of Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday. Held in St Paul's Cathedral, the service included a number of Christian hymns, prayers, Biblical readings, addresses and reflections. It was attended by over 2000 people, including members of the Royal Family, senior politicians, faith leaders and hundreds of members of the public nominated by government departments in recognition of their service. Bishop Angaelos, along with a number of faith leaders, took part in special prayers during the service for Her Majesty The Queen, who became Britain’s longest reigning monarch in 2015. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Press Release: House of Lords launch of report on religion-based asylum application process

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
                                   Media and Communications Office

House of Lords launch of report on religion-based asylum application process



8 June 2016

The 7 June 2016 saw the launch of a report jointly commissioned by the Asylum Advocacy Group (AAG) and The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Freedom of Religion or Belief. The report, entitled ‘Fleeing Persecution: Asylum Claims in the UK on Religious Freedom Grounds’ explores the effectiveness of the assessment of religion-based asylum claims in the UK, and the impact of the asylum process on the fairness and quality of decision-making.

Those attending the launch heard addresses by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, and Founder and Chair of the AAG, The Baroness Berridge of the Vale of Catmose, co-chair of the APPG, and Professor Geoff Gilbert, Professor of Law in the School of Law and Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex.

Chairing the meeting, Baroness Berridge said:

“We are aware that the Home office is trying to make incredibly nuanced and difficult decisions… [and] are here to help and assist so that genuine claims are accepted...We aim to work with the Home Office to improve the quality of decisions so as to avoid the heartache and the time and resources of lawyers at tribunal hearings.”

Speaking of the vulnerability of those fleeing persecution and seeking asylum in the UK, Bishop Angaelos said:

“We have been working in collaboration with the Home Office for several years to ensure that the measures applied to determine the credibility of applications do not inadvertently disadvantage those truly in need of refuge and support.

While many have the benefit of freely choosing their faith or belief in some parts of the world, there are others for whom this decision makes them vulnerable to persecution, to the extent of sometimes threatening their very existence.

Conscious of the fact that some will desire to abuse the system, we must not forget the humaneness with which those legitimately applying on religious freedom grounds should be treated. This is not just a matter of statistics, because even if one case is misjudged, that represents one life placed at greater risk.”

Addressing the complexity of religious freedom case law and designation, Professor Gilbert said:  

“It is a mistake to ignore religious based persecution…[which is] not limited to state-based activity…Cumulative discrimination can amount to persecution if there is enough of it...”

The report listed a number of recommendations regarding the asylum process, aimed at improving the effectiveness and sensitivity of guidelines, amongst which was:

“Ensure that the asylum procedures are sensitive to the applicants’ experiences, backgrounds and well-being. Also ensure that applicants should not be caused unnecessary distress and should feel able to speak freely...”

Present at the meeting were members of both Houses of Parliament, as well as religious freedom and advocacy organisations and representatives of a variety of religious and ethnic groups.

For a copy of the report online, including the full list of recommendations as part of the Executive summary, click here.    
      
*Ends*






Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Press Release: Unprecedented meeting of Orthodox and Pentecostal Church leaders at The Coptic Orthodox Church Centre

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
                                   Media and Communications Office

Unprecedented meeting of Orthodox and Pentecostal Church leaders at The Coptic Orthodox Church Centre


 7 June 2016

As part of a Churches Together in England (CTE) initiative, The Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in the United Kingdom hosted an unprecedented meeting of Orthodox and Pentecostal Church leaders on 6 June 2016. The fraternal meeting, which aimed to build relationships, as well as discuss the issues of the persecuted Church and mission, was facilitated by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, Bishop Dr Eric Brown, Pentecostal President of CTE, and Bishop in the New Testament Church of God, and The Very Revd Archpriest Maxim Nikolsky of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In his welcome, Bishop Angaelos, stated the importance of the common witness of the Christian family regardless of differences of expression and denomination, saying:  
“There is such value in collaboration, and this historic meeting is the first of its kind in England, the United Kingdom, and possibly worldwide. While we all come from our particular backgrounds and theological understanding, today is a day to build bridges and to strengthen them.”

Going on to comment on the persecuted Church, he said:
“In seeing the persecution of our brothers and sisters around the world, and in speaking about mission, we must recognise that this is a time, more than ever, for us to stand together. We must continue to be advocates for all who are persecuted regardless of their faith or ethnicity. As countless thousands continue to be persecuted for their Faith, we must speak out when there is injustice, following the example of Christ, the Chief Advocate, Who came to indiscriminately provide hope and salvation for all humanity.”

During the morning session Bishop Eric Brown said:
“Today is a historic day, it is the coming together of the Pentecostals and Orthodox in this country, and essentially we are seeking ways in which we can jointly lift up the name of Jesus and to make Him known in a more powerful way in this nation. Hopefully we can get some consensus as to how we might address the issue of persecuted Christians worldwide.”

Bishop Dr Joe Aldred who works primarily with Pentecostal Churches in CTE, and who was the instigator of this meeting, said:
“Today marks a momentous and significant meeting point and a beginning I hope of a lasting fellowship and friendship between leaders. I hope that we can develop a better understanding of what Christians around the world are experiencing, and continue to dialogue and take action where possible together. The other strand of this meeting is mission, and how that mission of Christ in England is better done together than apart.”

Father Maxim Nikolsky said:
“It is important to meet people who certainly share much in common; to meet, to understand some of their way of thinking, and to see what it is that is common to us."

When asked about the persecuted Church, he continued:
“That is a very important topic especially in the modern day, and we need to see if there is anything that can be done on a personal level, and as a community. We read and deliberate on the subject, but we must look at what we can really do to help our fellow Christians, and all who are persecuted for their faith.”

As part of the closing session a discussion was held on ways to collaboratively tackle national and international issues of concern, including religious freedom in England, and the Middle East. It was agreed to establish a working group to develop partnership in fellowship and actions, and a provisional time was set for the next meeting of the group.

*Ends*

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Thursday, 2 June 2016

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom on the attack on the Coptic community in El Karm village, Menia, Egypt

2 June 2016

Background

On 20 May 2016 a violent mob shamefully stripped Soad Thabet, an elderly woman, of her clothes and paraded her through the streets of El Karm village in Egypt as a result of unsubstantiated allegations concerning her son having an affair with a Muslim woman. Since the attack, the woman in question has categorically denied the claims on national television, and as investigations continue, the armed forces, at the request of the Egyptian president, have begun to rebuild Christian homes torched during the attack.

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom


Days after having been stripped and dragged through the streets of her village in the most undignified and inhumane of ways, the gracious and forgiving response of Soad Thabet, an elderly mother and grandmother, is both courageous and inspiring.

The ethos of the Coptic Christian community in Egypt has always been one of forgiveness, as was particularly evident in its peaceful and reconciliatory response to the burning of over one hundred churches and places of ministry in August 2013, and following the brutal execution of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya last year. Having said that, there is currently a rejection of conventional ‘reconciliation meetings’ based on the fact that they have historically been used as a cosmetic short-term solution, without addressing root causes or preventing the recurrence of similar incidents. Despite an ongoing commitment to genuine reconciliation efforts, there is an immediate and pressing need for tangible solutions, as superficial measures that aim to pacify will by no means have a lasting effect, and can never lead to true reconciliation and social cohesion.

It is indeed shameful that such mob crimes can be perpetrated against innocent communities or individuals, of whatever faith or ethnicity, and especially as a result of slanderous and unsubstantiated allegations; and that an elderly woman could be so publicly and indecently humiliated. What is also unacceptable is the utter disinterest (at best) and/or complicit and criminal negligence (at worst) with which the local security services conducted themselves, and the Menia Governor’s initial denial that these crimes actually occurred.

In this light, President Sisi of Egypt has expressed a need for fair and transparent investigation, and amidst allegations that those apprehended for these crimes have been released on bail, the hope is that measures to safeguard every Egyptian citizen, irrespective of his or her chosen faith or belief, will indeed be effectively implemented.

As I commented last week, Egypt is at a formative stage of its contemporary history which requires a robust system of law and order that underpins an ethos of equal citizenship and accountability. Any such steps taken at the national level however are severely hampered and undermined by these recurring failures at the local level.

Our prayers are with all now tasked to carry out investigations and to bring healing and restoration to this community. Little can possibly be done to compensate the unprovoked injustice suffered by an innocent elderly mother in rural Egypt, but we continue to pray for peace and for the hearts and minds of perpetrators to be changed, paving the way for true reconciliation.

*Ends*



Thursday, 26 May 2016

Statement by HG Bishop Makarius of Menia and Comment by HG Bishop Angaelos on the incidents in El-Karm Village on May 20, 2016

Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
Media and Communications Office


Statement by
His Grace Bishop Makarius of Menia
on the incidents in El-Karm Village on May 20, 2016

And comment by His Grace Bishop Angaelos
General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom

26 May 2016
The shameful incidents started in the village of El-Karm, located four kilometres from the town of El-Fekreya, near Abou Korkas, after rumours of an alleged relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman. The Christian man, whose name is Ashraf Abdou Attia, has been the subject of threats which forced him to flee the village, whilst his father and mother went to Abou Korkas police station to file an official complaint on Thursday May, 19 2016. The complaint specifically mentioned threats they had received, and their expectation that these threats would be acted upon the following day.

As expected, on Friday May 20, 2016 at 20:00 a mob of approximately 300 men carrying weapons attacked seven Christian homes, stealing all their contents and burning some of them to the ground, causing damage to the value of approximately 350,000 Egyptian Pounds.

During these attacks, the assailants stripped an elderly Christian woman of her clothes and paraded her in the middle of the street before a large crowdchanting and shouting. The security forces reached the village at 22:00 of the same night and arrested six people out of the 300, who are currently under investigation.

We trust that no honest person would accept this behaviour, and we also trust that the state agencies will take the relevant action, and not merely look on from a distance as observers. Based on this expectation, we thank the state agencies in advance, and trust that they will make every effort to holding all those involved accountable for their actions.

Having spoken directly with Bishop Makarius, and commenting on his statement and recent incidents, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom said:

It is indeed shameful that such mob crimes can be perpetrated against innocent communities at all, of whatever faith or ethnicity, and especially as a result of slanderous and unsubstantiated rumours; and that an elderly mother could be so publicly and indecently humiliated. What is also unacceptable is the utter disinterest (at best) and/or complicit and criminal negligence (at worst) with which the local security services conducted themselves, and the Menia Governor’s denial that these crimes occurred.

Egypt is at a formative stage of its contemporary history which requires a robust system of law and order that underpins an ethos of equal citizenship and accountability. Any such steps taken at the national level are severely hampered and undermined by these recurring failures at the local level.

Our prayers are with the families and community directly affected by these incidents, as well as with all those involved in the genuine work of transparent and sensitive healing that must be carried out to repair this now broken community, in a way that leads to a peaceful and mutually-respectful existence.’

*Ends*