Delivering an address to Church leaders at the Churches Together in England (CTE) President’s dinner, Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom and Moderator of CTBI trustees, said:
‘There is no way that all those currently displaced within or outside of Syria can be absorbed into other nations, and we must understand that the majority of them do not wish to leave their homelands. If their own places of heritage and history were available to them they would remain in their countries.
‘While we need to focus on the immediate vulnerability of refugees we must also think long-term about providing the possibility of return through safe and legitimate means, to ensure they have safety and refuge in their homelands.’
He commended the work being done by various faith leaders and communities in response to the refugee crisis, and went on to outline the role of Christians and Church leaders in their response, saying:
‘The responsibility we have as Christians to be charitable and generous is undeniable, and it is important for us to always be good and faithful conduits of the Christian message of love and hospitality which is indiscriminate and undeniable.’
Urging Faith leaders to rethink rhetoric used in responding to the issue, he said:
‘In tackling this issue our threshold has dropped; we are now calling for people not to be executed for their faith or lack thereof, whereas we must realise and communicate that being alive is not a privilege but a right. We must call for all to live within a context of dignity, equality, safety and prosperity.’
Speaking of the efforts of Muslim faith leaders in their response to extremist ideology, he said:
‘We must pay tribute to the Muslim voices that have spoken against these atrocities and also recognise that more must speak out, as this counter-narrative must come from within Islam and its institutions. Not only should we pay tribute to these courageous voices but we must stand by them when they speak because they become targets in challenging the more radical voices around them.’
In conclusion, Bishop Angaelos called for more unified and collaborative efforts, saying:
‘We must realise that this is a great opportunity for the Church in England to be a source of light. We must stand collectively to pray, speak and provide hope into these dire situations.’
Quoting Scripture, Bishop Angaelos called for Christians to remember that ‘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 once strangers…’ (Leviticus 19:34)
For full details see the Coptic Orthodox Church media and communications office website.