It was very moving last Wednesday 14 December to join in a prayer vigil led by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, at the Innocent Victims' Memorial at Westminster Abbey. The prayers were offered in honour and memory of the 25 Coptic Orthodox Christians, mostly women and children, who were killed in the bombing of St Peter's Church in Cairo last weekend.
The Reverend Canon Jane Sinclair of the Abbey welcomed all to the prayers. Addresses were given by the Archbishop Justin Welby, Bishop Angaelos and HE Mr Nasser Kamel, the Egyptian Ambassador to the UK. As the names of the victims were read aloud, 25 red roses were laid between 25 lit candles, representing the blood that they shed for their faith, and the light they will continue to represent in the memory of their family, friends, and communities.
Bishop Angaelos spoke of the tragedy of families broken apart just before the Feast of the Nativity, and of the need for faith, forgiveness and justice:
"People are indeed surprised when we speak of forgiveness at times like this, but we are called to forgive and we must continue to do so. Of course there is a call for justice but never for vengeance…reconciliation but never carelessness. In our unity as the Body of Christ, the family of faith, and the global family, we must continue to advocate for and safeguard the dignity and sanctity of every life. The importance of our mission and our ministry here as God’s children, is to continue, like these candles to be light in darkness.”
HE The Ambassador of Egypt, added,
“These heinous crimes that aim to undermine the unity of the Egyptian people, regardless of their religious affiliation, will never succeed, nor will the bonds that tie its religious establishments ever be broken. Peace and harmony have always prevailed in Egypt. Let me remind you - as we also approach the Nativity celebrations - that the Virgin Mary, after giving birth to Jesus Christ, sought refuge in Egypt to protect her newborn from tyranny and intolerance."