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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Rejoicing in faith and sharing in pain - an ecumenical statement from Christian leaders in the UK

His Grace Bishop Angaelos: front, 2nd from left
His Grace Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom and the Moderator of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, CTBI, initiated an ecumenical gathering which was hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury today in London.

At the meeting, discussions were held about the plight of Christians and minority communities in Iraq, Syria and the wider Middle East. The following statement was agreed, which expresses solidarity with all those who continue to suffer gross violations of their rights and freedoms.

REJOICING IN THEIR FAITH AND SHARING IN THEIR COLLECTIVE PAIN

3 September 2014

A new situation has arisen which creates a state of emergency in the Middle East for Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities. The recent increase in violence and aggression has resulted in gross violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in the region. We gathered today as Christians including those originally from the Middle East to stand in solidarity and prayer with our brothers and sisters who seek to practice their faith and belief in lands where they have been a continuing presence for centuries.

The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity, and home to indigenous Christian communities that have been an indispensable part of its history. Despite the challenges, Christians in the region were and are a stabilising and reconciling presence. Today, particularly in Iraq and Syria, they are at great risk from violence fostered by extremist ideologies which no longer see them as being part of the future. The Middle East is in desperate danger of losing an irreplaceable part of its identity, heritage and culture.

We are seeing an extreme religious ideology that knows no limits in its persecution of those who are culturally or religiously different. Those who promote this intolerance must be challenged and the perpetrators of violence held to account. The suffering of those who bear the brunt of its terror requires us to act and bear witness to their plight, whatever ethnic group or religious minority, they come from. We must provide relief and safety for those displaced and in fear of their lives in consultation with our partners in the region. We must also bring pressure to bear on those who can provide security to those affected.

In meeting and praying together, we give thanks for our brothers and sisters as they continue to live their Christian faith with strength and perseverance. We commit to continue to stand with them in prayer, to speak for freedom from persecution for Christians and all other religious communities and those of no faith who live as minority groups across the region. We also continue to urge Her Majesty’s Government to work within the international community to safeguard and provide for all those affected.

To our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, We “share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance.” Revelation 1:9

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