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Coptic bishop urges Church to: 'Look for the face of Christ in every refugee'

The United Reformed Church General Assembly heard an address by Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, focusing on refugees and the Middle East. The following is a summary of his address

It has been an interesting week: I started by speaking at annual Methodist conference; now I am here. This is my ecumenical grand slam.

Together, whatever our differences, we are the Church. There is only one body of Christ, however much we fragment it. We should be a source of light in a world that needs light.

As the Church, we need to address the issue of refugees. The infant Christ and the holy family were refugees; we must be able to look for the face of Christ in every refugee. The EU referendum showed that there are deep disagreements and misinterpretations about refugees in the UK. As the body of Christ we must be advocates for the fairness and justice that Christ not only preached but demonstrated, in his incarnation for us.

The situation in the Middle East is complex. Some say it is devastation and no hope; some say there is no big problem. Both are wrong: there is pain and persecution, but there is also hope, brought through the Church that was born in the Middle East and survives there.

Please let us stop the rhetoric of 'Eastern Christians' and 'Western Christians'. There is only one body of Christ.

The proportion of Christians in the Middle East has declined to 5%; 4% are in Egypt. Syria, Iraq and Palestine are all hemorrhaging Christians; for the past decade they have been persecuted there. This should not continue on our watch, and it does not need to. We must be a voice for the voiceless.

There are many prophets of doom, but Christians have faith in the life to come and in him who is eternal. We must be voice of love, hope, inclusion and compassion. Our responsibility is not to make others Christians; it is to present Christ in such a way that people choose him.

Let us not advocate justice just for ourselves but for everyone made in the image of God regardless of their faith or absence of faith.

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