Alienation of Christians

‘Alienation of Christians’ in the Middle East cannot be allowed to continue, National Prayer breakfast told

‘The alienation of Christians’ in the Middle East cannot be allowed to continue.

That was the message at the National Prayer Breakfast at Westminster Hall today of the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, His Grace Bishop Angaelos.

‘There has been a silence about this over decades,’ said Bishop Angaelos, ‘and this cannot be allowed to continue on our watch.’

Overall, the proportion of people in the Middle East who are Christians has dropped from 14 per cent in 1910 to just 4 per cent today. Church leaders and pundits have begun to ask whether Christianity will vanish from the Middle East, its cradle, after 2,000 years. In February 2015, ISIS beheaded 21 Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya.

Christians in the Middle East were ‘spread very thin’ Bishop Angaelos said. ‘This has not happened overnight. It has been the outcome of years, decades of the persecution of, marginalisation of and systematic targeting of Christians and faith communities.

‘This has been difficult in the birthplace of Christianity,’ he added, saying that there had been ‘a huge exodus of those who had called these communities home for millennia’.

He called on Christians, Muslims and people of no faith to work together for the protection of the rights of Christians in the Middle East.

‘This is a wonderful opportunity for us to work together,’ he said. ‘The current problem and situation is greater than us all and needs us all to work together.

‘Unprecedented times call for unprecedented collaboration, whether that is between Churches, between these great Houses or government departments, that collaboration is needed.’

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, echoed his words. In a statement to the assembled company, the Prime Minister said, ‘We think of all those who have to practise their faith in fear.

‘Across the Middle East, we know that Christians have been hounded out of their homes, forced to flee from village to village, many of them forced to renounce their faith or be brutally murdered.

‘We must stand with them and we must continue to put our words into actions – from getting humanitarian aid to those most in need, to supporting efforts to bring reconciliation to the region in the future.’

The National Prayer Breakfast is held annually in Westminster Hall. This year it brought together some 730 people including more than 150 parliamentarians and peers, 50 ambassadors and Church leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby and the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres.

The event is organised by Christians in Parliament and sponsored by Bible Society.

Rachel Rounds

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