|Photo by Geoff Crawford|
My good friend and ecumenical colleague, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK addressed the Church of England's General Synod yesterday on the complex refugee crisis, underlining the perspectives from Christians in the Middle East. His Grace is the Moderator of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), of which I am a trustee. He was one of the Church leaders who was with me on a CTBI visit to the Greek-FYRO Macedonian border in September, which was the first official visit of any sort to the region from the UK to learn first hand about what is the greatest crisis in Europe since WWII.
Speaking of the crisis as an opportunity for Christians and the Church to act, Bishop Angaelos said:
“We are a united Body of Christ, there is no Church of the East and Church of the West; it is one Body and it suffers equally, and so we need to approach this matter collaboratively. These are, after all, vulnerable people, not merely statistics. We also extend this voice of advocacy to non-Christians, as we cannot just look after 'our own'”.
He went on to say:
“This situation does however present a wonderful opportunity, because there is no greater place for light than in the most abject darkness; so we are here as that light and that hope…We are not here to worry or fear, but to think how we can collaborate. Taking inspiration from Saint Francis, we must work to be the living scripture before all”.
Reassuring members of the Synod that the crisis is not theirs alone to respond to, Bishop Angaelos concluded by saying:
“We need to collaborate ecumenically as this is not a problem for just the Church of England, but the Church IN England. We are here to work together as Churches with our networks in the United Kingdom and in the Middle East”.
Bishop Angaelos went on to say:
“We must also remember to support our inter-religious friends when they speak out powerfully, as they too become targets”.
He concluded by saying:
“I am thankful for my presence here ecumenically and I see myself as a voice in and a voice out. As a voice in I bring you the voices of the Middle East Church leaders both here in the United Kingdom and across the Middle East who value your support. As a voice out I will present the sentiments that I have felt personally in this chamber that their brothers and sisters here want to support them in every way, and in the words of Revelation 1:9 we do indeed “share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance”.