The British Orthodox Church

within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate

British Orthodox Synod meets

Abba Seraphim chaired the half-yearly Synod of the British Orthodox Church, which met at the Church Secretariat in Charlton on 14 January. Reports were presented on behalf of all the parishes and missions as well as financial reports and church activities in relation to inter-church relations, religious education and publications. A principal topic discussed was the planned expansion of the work in London and the increase of the catechumenate.

Deacon’s mother dies

On 11 December, Abba Seraphim and the congregation at St. Thomas’ Parish at Charlton, offered their condolences to Deacon Theodore on the death of his mother, Lydia de Quincey, who died at her home in London at the age of 105 years and 5 months. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, memorial prayers were said for her repose. Her funeral, which will take place at Deerton Woodland Burial Ground, Teynham, Kent, on 13 December, will be officiated by Father Peter Farrington and Deacon Theodore and attended by family and close friends.

Coptic Language Summer School at King’s College, London

Father Peter Farrington has organised an intensive Coptic Language course which took place at King’s College, London. He reports on the successful event

The Coptic Language Summer School held at King’s College, London over the 5th-8th September was a complete success and even exceeded the expectations of those who participated, and myself who organised it.

Over four very intensive days of study a group of eight students progressed with growing understanding and enthusiasm through the first third of Thomas Lambdin’s Introduction to Sahidic Coptic through the inspiring teaching of Dr. Carol Downer, one of the few experts in Coptic teaching in the UK at the present time.

The group of participants included a variety of university lecturers from different institutions, several PhD students, and a handful of independent students such as myself. The class turned out to be ideally matched and we progressed through the studies at a very fast pace while also working together so that no-one was left behind.

We were fortunate to be able to hold the Summer School at King’s College, London, at the Strand campus, and some of the faculty and students at King’s were participants on the course. The excellent cafeteria facilities on site meant that we did not have to spend time each day looking for somewhere to have lunch together. The room we used was just the right size and had a view out over the Strand.

Many of the group were already competent in a variety of other ancient languages, but thanks to the teaching ability of Dr. Carol Downer even those of us whose willingness to learn was greater than our present grasp of Sahidic Coptic were soon able to translate increasingly complex sentences. Working through the exercises, both together in the class, and on our own in the evening, meant that the lessons we were learning took root.

By the end of the intensive course we were even able to begin to read passages from the Scripture with some understanding and each participant was able to measure the real progress they had made. Having studied the first third of our text book many of the class asked if a second and even a third such intensive week of studies could be organised in January and at Easter so that a more complete grasp of Sahidic Coptic could be acquired over the course of the year.

Some of the comments I have received from participants are as follows:

I absolutely loved the course – the atmosphere was friendly and open, and I felt welcome at once even though I am no language expert. It was just the push I needed to get me interested and motivated to continue pursuing Sahidic Coptic, and the encouragement and support I received has increased my love for the language even further.

I enjoyed the course immensely – and hope that the suggested January follow-up actually comes to fruition.
I very much enjoyed the course and found it extremely useful. The intensity of four days together was, I think, just about right and the group size and dynamic just enough to spur me on, without intimidation that can sometimes come with language learning. Carol is a wonderful teacher, and there were plenty of course materials provided so, overall, I have no suggestions for improvement. I’d certainly want to take another 4 day course as we discussed.
Plans are now underway for a second week of study in early January which will consider the next 10 chapters of pur text book.
From my own point of view, I am extremely pleased to have reached the end of the Coptic Language Summer School with a genuine grasp of the material we have covered. I shall certainly be reviewing it so that it isn’t lost, and will try to make use of it in the study of simple passages from Scripture. Having picked up Lambdin many times in the past, and put it down again because of difficulties studying on my own, I am very grateful that Dr Carol Downer has led me through these chapters.
Father Peter Farrington

Coptic Language Summer School 2011

The British Orthodox Church is pleased to announce that a Coptic Language Summer School has been organised by Father Peter Farrington with the blessing and support of H.E. Metropolitan Seraphim and the sponsorship of the British Orthodox Church.

The student numbers are limited to approximately 10, and places are already filling up.

The details are as follows:

Coptic Language Summer School
King’s College, London

Monday 5th – Thursday 8th September, 2011

Session 1: 11:00-13:00
Lunch and Discussion Break: 13:00-14:00
Session 2: 14:00-16:00

The tutor will be Dr Carol Downer, an experienced and well qualified lecturer in the Coptic language.

The course material will be based on Introduction to Sahidic Coptic by Thomas O. Lambdin.

The cost of the School is £60, payable in advance.

Those wishing to book a place should urgently contact the School organiser:

Father Peter Farrington – fatherpeter@britishorthodox.org

and make an online payment of £60 using the following link..

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=XSUHUEF8VMSLN

Prayer Vigil at Eritrean Embassy

The British Orthodox Church was among a number of groups which stood in solidarity with imprisoned Eritreans at a Prayer Vigil outside the Eritrean Embassy in London on 26 May. Abba Seraphim, supported by Father Simon Smyth and Deacon Theodore de Quincey, joined representatives from Human Rights Concern – Eritrea, Church in Chains, Release Eritrea, the Evangelical Alliance, Release, Open Doors and Christian Solidarity Worldwide for prayer, scripture readings and spiritual songs. Abba Seraphim opened the proceedings with the Prayer of Thanksgiving and later spoke about the unjust imprisonment of Abune Antonios, the canonical Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Despite the torrential showers (the first for many weeks) all those present stood their ground and remained constant in their vigil. At the end of the proceedings, Abba Seraphim crossed the road to the Embassy and handed in a letter on behalf of all those present.

H.E. Mr. Tesfamicael Gerahtu
Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland
Embassy of the State of Eritrea
96 White Lion Street
London N1 9PF
ENGLAND

26 May 2011

Your Excellency,

We have gathered today, representing thousands of Christians in Britain and Ireland, to mark the ninth anniversary of the forced closure of all churches in Eritrea, apart from those belonging to the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran traditions.

Standing in solidarity with fellow Christians in Eritrea, we once again call for the granting of full religious freedom, and for the unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience in Eritrea.

We are dismayed at the continuing imprisonment without charge or trial of tens of thousands of Eritrean citizens, including several thousand Christians, detained solely on account of their faith. We are also deeply troubled at the increasing harassment of authorised churches, as illustrated by the illegal dismissal and indefinite detention of Abune Antonios, the canonically-ordained Orthodox patriarch, and the imprisonment, dismissal and forcible conscription of scores of Orthodox clergyman.

Credible reports continue to emerge from Eritrea of Christians being incarcerated in inhumane conditions, physically and mentally abused, and deprived of access to adequate food, potable water and medication. We are aware that over a dozen have died following mistreatment and/or denial of medical attention, and are particularly concerned at the continuing practice of requiring prisoners to sign statements renouncing their faith as a prerequisite to obtaining their freedom.

We assure you, once again, that these Christians pose no threat to the government in the peaceful practice of their faith, and can affirm that the teachings and principles of their faith encourage good citizenship and loyalty to one’s country. We are confident that Christians in Eritrea are committed to strengthening the nation, and to contributing positively towards its development.

We urge you to convey to your government our appeal for swift and positive action to ensure the release of all prisoners of conscience, regardless of their creed, and to facilitate every human right outlined in Eritrea’s commendable national constitution, including the right to religious freedom.

Please be assured of our continued prayers for the well-being and prosperity of your people and nation. We remain committed to the people of Eritrea, and seek to support the nation’s progresses towards a just and equitable future.

Among the speakers at the Vigil was Elsa Chyrum, who spoke movingly of the plight of Eritrean refugees:

“Eritrea has just celebrated its 20th independence anniversary.

Let me start with the latest events regarding Eritrea and Eritreans that may highlight the irony of the independence of Eritrea. The regime, in its usual fanfare, has prepared Grand Festivals to celebrate the 20th year of the nation’s independence. This totalitarian regime dares to call these 20 years “20 Years of Dignity”. But the indignity of it all is to be seen in the latest tragic events that have affected Eritreans everywhere.

First, you must have heard of the tragedy that occurred lately in the Mediterranean Sea, as thousands of African refugees tried to escape the turmoil of the Libyan uprising. The plight of black Africans was compounded by the unfounded rumour that they are serving as mercenaries in Gadaffi’s army. Many Eritrean refuge es had no other option but to escape this double jeopardy. As a result, sadly, the greatest number of those who perished in the Mediterranean Sea happen to be Eritreans – so far, hundreds of them.

The other tragedy is the ongoing problem in the Sinai desert: human trafficking. In this peninsula, Bedouin human traffickers, in close collaboration with Eritrean criminal elements, are openly conducting a ransom-for-hostage enterprise. Here, there are about 400 Eritrean refugees still held in captivity, waiting for ransom money to arrive from family members and close relatives in the West. For each captive, the traffickers ask more than US $10,000. If ransom money is not paid, the hostages are subjected to constant rape, torture, involuntary removal of organs, and murder. This living hell has become a business. The ransom amounts that are paid encourage the smugglers to raise their demands. The higher the sum, the harder it is for the family abroad to raise the money. This results in an even longer period of imprisonment and torture for the refugees many of whom die before or even after the ransom has been paid. So far, the Egyptian government is unwilling to do anything about it – even a personal plea from the Pope had no effect at all.

Eritrean asylum seekers have been criminalized for trying to escape from a living hell in their own country and enter Egypt illegally. They are imprisoned incommunicado, physically tortured and psychologically abused. They have been herded like animals into what are little more than cages. Small rooms house forty or fifty asylum seekers night and day at high, unbearable temperatures with no ventilation or any other basic hygiene, leading to skin rashes and more serious ailments none of which are treated, for adults and children alike.

Some of the Eritreans who have tried to cross to Israel have been shot dead, or wounded and consequently imprisoned in Egypt.

Little enough to celebrate so far, but the tragedy doesn’t end there:

On 22nd May 2011, at around 3:30 a.m, four Eritrean refugees were burnt to death and one was critically scorched at the Tunisian refugee camp near the Libyan border. The victims had recently fled from Libya and were waiting to be resettled to a safe country via UNHCR. Their tents were deliberately set on fire. Two Sudanese refugees have been arrested in connection with the crime, and they are remanded in custody. There has been a clash between the local Tunisian community and certain groups of the refugee communities in the Sousha camp which has led to more violence and destruction. The refugees in the camp are very anxious and tension is very high. Unless urgent action is taken by The Tunisian government and the UNHCR, the situation could escalate into furt her tragedy resulting in further loss of life.

Due to forced conscription and endless military service in Eritrea, tens of thousands are fleeing to Ethiopia and Sudan and much farther to Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Australia, Europe, the US and other countries. Yet the plight of these Eritreans is largely misunderstood. They go through a lot of hardship and pain in search of a safe haven and freedom by escaping from one country only to find themselves virtual or actual prisoners in another.

Thousands of Eritreans whose asylum claims have been refused become illegally resident in Europe, USA, Australia, etc., spend long periods in detention awaiting deportation or are left to live on the streets in destitution. Legislation bars these individuals from access to basic public services – shelter, food, etc and they are prevented from working. Most of these destitute asylum seekers rely on support from families, religious organisations or well-wishers.

We are here this afternoon to demonstrate our awareness of their troubles, to show our solidarity with those of our people who have suffered, and are suffering, at the hands of the Eritrean government and its supporters, and to signal to the Eritrean government and those Eritreans in diaspora who continue to finance its evildoing, that the truth cannot be hidden by phoney celebrations praising a country which remains a prison for so many of its citizens. We are here now, and we will be here again, and we will not go away even if it takes another twenty years to bring true freedom to our people, to stop the suffering of Eritrean refugees.”


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