London Liturgy to pray for the Church in Egypt
On Saturday, 13th April, 9:30 am. His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate will celebrate the Liturgy and invites all who wish to pray for the peace of Egypt and the safety of the Coptic Orthodox Church to unite with us in prayer.
The Liturgy will take place at St George in the East, Cannon Street Road, Shadwell, London, E1 0BH, beginning at 9:30 am with the Raising of Incense, and at 10:00 am with the Liturgy itself.
All interested and faithful Christians who are able to pray with us on this occasion are most warmly invited to do so.
Our worship will be in the English language.
The Church of St George in the East is only 4 minutes walk from Shadwell DLR station.
This year Abba Seraphim celebrated the Nativity Feast on Christmas Eve (24 December) at the Chatham Church. In his address Abba Seraphim spoke of the angelic proclamation of Peace on Earth, which he noted has always been elusive, “It seems almost alien to the natural condition of man and since the beginning of time, enmity and strife, whether domestic or between nations, has brought death, division and desolation in its wake.”
He especially addressed the current problems in the Middle East, “This year of grace we celebrate the Lord’s Nativity when the ancient biblical lands are more than unusually unsettled. That little town of Bethlehem and the Palestinian territories cry out for justice. We deplore the aggressive establishment of settlements by an intransigent Israeli state, but who can condone the charter of a corrupt and bloodthirsty Hamas which calls for the killing of Jews ? In Egypt we have seen the disappointment of a peaceful Revolution, which overthrew a corrupt regime, only to fall captive to narrow religious zealots who seek to promote their own interests rather than the common good. Blood has been shed and we may expect that more will follow, because in that divided society there can be no peace. Most of all we grieve for our brethren in Syria, torn apart by unspeakable savagery.”
With regard to the Syrian crisis, he felt that the current Coalition government, which prides itself on its promotion of civil liberties, equality and justice, both at home and abroad, has shown incredible short-sightedness in its response to the threat to Christian communities in the Middle-East. By supporting the so-called National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which has been proved to be dominated by Islamist elements and financed by external regimes, our government has “effectively abandoned all possibilities to promote dialogue with both sides and has allied us to those who are destroying the significant Christian minority which has been there since apostolic times. Unlike Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, I cannot consider what he regards as Mr. Cameron’s “overtly Christian tone” in his Christmas address as being anything more than hollow words, when government policy doesn’t merely show casual indifference to the fate of our Christian brethren in Syria, but actively undermines them.”
The 2012 Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, covering the period 1 April 2011 to 290 February 2012, has just been published. The full text can be accessed online at http://www.uscirf.gov/images/Annual%20Report%20of%20USCIRF%202012(2).pdf
Of particular interest are the reports dealing with Egypt and Eritrea. Whilst the period under review covered the Egyptian Revolution and overthrow of President Mubarak, there were no significance developments in Eritrea. Yet, both countries raise significant concerns. For Egypt the report found:
“Over the past year, the Egyptian transitional government continued to engage in and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief. Serious problems of discrimination, intolerance, and other human rights violations against members of religious minorities, as well as disfavored Muslims, remain widespread in Egypt. Violence targeting Coptic Orthodox Christians increased significantly during the reporting period. The transitional government has failed to protect religious minorities from violent attacks at a time when minority communities have been increasingly vulnerable. This high level of violence and the failure to convict those responsible continued to foster a climate of impunity, making further violence more likely. During the reporting period, military and security forces used excessive force and live ammunition targeting Coptic Christian demonstrators and places of worship resulting in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries. The government also continued to prosecute, convict, and impose prison terms on Egyptian citizens charged with blasphemy. Implementation of previous court rulings – related to granting official identity documents to Baha‘is and changing religious affiliation on identity documents for converts to Christianity – has seen some progress but continues to lag, particularly for Baha‘is. In addition, the government has not responded adequately to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government controlled media.”
In Eritrea, the report found:
“Systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations continue in Eritrea. These violations include: torture or other ill-treatment of thousands of religious prisoners; arbitrary arrests and detentions without charges of members of unregistered religious groups; a prolonged ban on public religious activities; revocation of citizenship rights of Jehovah‘s Witnesses; interference in the internal affairs of registered religious groups; and inordinate delays in responding to registration applications from religious groups.”
Abba Seraphim welcomed the report and said it was of particular help in supporting those seeking asylum, whose personal stories of intimidation and persecution were the specific outcomes of failures by the states in question. Whilst his particular concern was directed towards Orthodox Christians; he highlighted that religious persecution was an evil into which all societies could fall and those who love truth and justice must defend the rights and freedom of all, even those holding un-Orthodox beliefs. “We cannot demand religious freedom as an inalienable human right if we seek to limit those rights for groups whose beliefs we reject. Sadly, there are instances in countries where Orthodoxy is the dominant faith, of severe restrictions, if not direct persecution. If we remain passive in the face of such limitations of other’s freedom, we are not upholding a universal human right but merely seeking to defend our own interests.”
We were very happy to hear the news of the marriage of Tina Hammond of the British Orthodox Chatham parish with Youhanna Said Hakim Georgious of Luxor. This took place on 31 July at St. Antony & St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church in Luxor and was performed by Abouna Gladious Gerges and Abouna Bolis in the presence of a congregation of more than a thousand people. The wedding had originally been planned for last year, but the sad death of Youhanna’s mother in August 2011 resulted in a year’s delay until the periods of mourning had been accomplished.
Tina will continue to share her time between Luxor and Kent, from where she runs her travel company. Abba Seraphim and Father Peter Farrington with her many friends in the British Orthodox congregations at Chatham, Charlton, the London Mission and the South Coast parishes all send their warmest greetings to Tina and Youhanna and look forward to welcoming him to England.
Abba Seraphim and Subdeacon Daniel Malyon attended the British Museum Colloquium, “Pagans, Christians and Muslims: Egypt in the First Millennium AD”, held on Monday & Tuesday, 9 & 10 July. On Monday evening Dr. Gawdat Gabra, former director of Cairo’s Coptic Museum, delivered the Raymond & Beverly Sackler Foundation Distinguished Lecture in Egyptology on “New Insights into Christian Egypt”, followed by a reception in the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery.