Source: Saint George and Saint Shenouda
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.”
On Thursday, 19th April, Father Peter Farrington participated in the Evangelical-Orthodox Dialogue, sponsored by the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius. The meeting took place at the Fellowship house in Oxford, adjacent to the Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity and the Annunciation.
Each meeting of the Dialogue consists of a presentation on a theme of interest by alternately an Evangelical and Orthodox speaker or participant, followed by questions and discussion, a shared buffet lunch, and closing with prayer. The meeting which took place last week was concerned with the subject of mission, and an evangelical speaker, Canon Mark Oxbrow, spoke about the Evangelical understanding and practice of mission. His interesting lecture was followed by a period of honest questions and answers which did not shy away from the difficult relationship between some Evangelical mission organisations and Orthodox communities.
Father Peter greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet with Eastern Orthodox clergy and laity, as well as Evangelicals who have a commitment to dialogue with Orthodox Christians. Almost the first person that he spoke with turned out to have a background in the Plymouth Brethren, as does Father Peter. Other participants included the former principal of the bible college that Father Peter attended when he was himself an Evangelical.
The meeting was entirely positive and worthwhile, and Father Peter is looking forward to the next meeting of the Dialogue in October when an Orthodox participant will speak about mission from the Orthodox perspective.
On 21 March Abba Seraphim visited His Grace Athanasios of the French Coptic Orthodox at St. Mark’s Centre, Nasr City, to greet him and discuss matters of common interest for the church in France and the British Orthodox Church. Abba Athanasius extended a warm welcome to Abba Seraphim to visit France later this year and Abba Seraphim reciprocated with an invitation to the United Kingdom.
At the Patriarchate in Anba Rueiss Their Eminences Metropolitan Bakhomious of Beheira and Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette (General Secretary of the Holy Synod), supported by a number of bishops, spent the whole day receiving a stream of visitors who had come to offer condolences on the death of H.H. Pope Shenouda.
On 22 March the Holy Synod, the Maglis Milli (Coptic Community Council) and Council for Church Endowments (Al Awkaf) will meet together at the Patriarchate to begin the process leading to the election of a new Pope.
As one of their Lenten speakers, the chaplaincy of Morden College, Blackheath, invited Abba Seraphim to reflect on the current situation 0f Christians in the Middle East. Addressing a large audience on 8 March, Abba Seraphim outlined the problems of Christians in Iraq, Syria and Egypt since the Millennium and took the decline in the historic Christian communities in Iraq as a warning to the Christian world of how fragile they have now become. The problems faced by each country were each quite distinctive and owed much to their respective histories since the break up of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of militant fundamentalists. He emphasised the significance of Egypt, with the largest Christian community in the Middle East and the dynamic life of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the face of continuing sectarian attacks. Following a number of thoughtful questions from the audience, the Rev’d Nick Woodcock, chaplain, invited Abba Seraphim to lead the audience in prayer for the Christians of the Middle East.
- 12 December 2013
- Evening Prayer & Discussion: Shadwell7.30pm Evening Prayer
7.45pm Talk and discussion
- 14 December 2013
- Morning Incense & Divine Liturgy: PortsmouthMorning Incense & Divine Liturgy 10am
- 15 December 2013
- Morning Prayer: BournemouthMorning Prayer: 9.30am
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Southampton: Morning PrayerMorning Prayer (10.00) (Holy Trinity Church)