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Bishop Angaelos on Christian persecution: it's not about Christians or Muslims, but about life

by Hannah Tooley

His address, 'Christians in the Middle East: Light in darkness, hope in despair' spoke of how the west is only just realising there is a problem: "The world seems to suddenly be waking up to the fact that there is a problem in the Middle East.

"That problem, however, did not start with the mass exodus of Christians from Mosul, because there has been a systematic and systemic persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East over decades and indeed over centuries.

"This ethnic cleansing is an accumulative effect and our silence has been a contributing factor to what we are seeing today."

He highlighted the severity of the persecution people are facing: "The Christian presence in the Middle East decreased from 25% to just 5%.

"An even more alarming statistic, is when you take Egypt out of the equation as the most populous country with the most populous Christian presence, that percentage falls from 5% to somewhere between 1% and 2% because there are 13 million Christians in Egypt."

"That said, I welcome the recent steps taken to present the actions of the caliphate to be those of genocide.

"I also welcome even more strongly, the efforts in the past few days that have sought to ensure that Christians are not excluded from that equation."

Bishop Angaelos continued that there needed to be a solution in the Middle East: "We cannot export models of what we consider to be viable democratic process to a region that is governed by its own demographics, dynamics and understanding of what religion is and where it belongs, both in society and in the lives of individuals.

"There is a growing disregard for the sanctity of life, and that must be what offends us. It is not about Christians or Muslims being killed, but about life and humanity as God's creation, and that disregard is a violation that we cannot be silent about. In response we must realise that we have to respond together, collaboratively."

"We must come out of the mentality that speaks of a Christian West and a Muslim East. The Body of Christ is one that feels pain equally and is affected equally by these horrible acts."

He concluded by reflecting on the reaction to the Friday 13th November terror attacks in Paris, saying it showeed the world had "inextinguishable mercy" as well as a moral responsibility to give a voice to those without one.

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