The Coptic Archbishop of London, His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, has given his support to the ‘Stop Christophobia‘ campaign, the Premier initiative which seeks to draw attention to the 245 million Christians worldwide who face high levels of persecution. The Archbishop says this is an “escalating phenomenon”, and he certainly knows: his website a Twitter feed bear harrowing testimony to the frequency and ferocity of attacks suffered by his brothers and sisters in Egypt. Coptic priests are murdered, their churches are bombed, and innocent Coptic children, women and men routinely have their lives brutally snuffed out for no other reason than that they are Christians.
“These horrific attacks have gone largely unnoticed by the international community,” the Archbishop wrote a year ago, “but Copts continue to suffer tragic violations daily. The attacks against them are anti-Christian and religiously-motivated, demonstrated in many cases by the circulation of flyers within villages urging Christians to ‘leave or die’.”
Frankly, if it weren’t for the Archbishop’s Twitter account and blogs such as these, we wouldn’t hear much about it at all; and certainly nothing about Christophobia, which His Eminence observes “increasingly leads to Christians being targeted, attacked and even murdered for merely affirming and living their faith”. The BBC and Guardian aren’t overly interested; nor for that matter is the Times, Telegraph and Daily Mail. Perhaps they’re too busy focusing on antisemitism and Islamophobia to notice the exponential rise in Christophobia. Or perhaps they just don’t like drawing attention to Christ and Christians.
Archbishop Angaelos is a radiant, holy and humble presence in the United Kingdom: his pastoral ministry and tireless work for advocacy (ever with a glint in the eye) are a blessing to us all. He made his comments in response to a review into the plight of persecuted Christians around the world, ordered by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, which (pray God) might do something to bring hope and alleviate their suffering. Curiously, His Eminence articulates the disparity in the treatment of religions by the media: “While there is increasing awareness and focus on the unacceptable and undeniable growth of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Xenophobia, it is also essential for us, at the same time, to understand and recognise the increasing trend of hostility and targeted attacks on Christians around the world.”
Some might call it anti-Christian discrimination or prejudice. Thank God one Archbishop is prepared to call it out.
He continued: “It has been my belief that while there is no recognised term to express anti-Christian sentiment and violence, attacks will remain in the hearts and minds of observers as sporadic and unrelated incidents. As with other patterns of targeting and demonising, it is equally undeniable that there is a trend, and an escalating phenomenon, that increasingly leads to Christians being targeted, attacked and even murdered for merely affirming and living their Faith.”
According to the International Society for Human Rights, freedom of thought, belief and religion is a fundamental human right. However, the reality is that Christians are the victims in 80% of acts of religious discrimination, even though they account for 30% of the global population. And let’s not pretend it isn’t happening right on our own doorstep.
‘Stop Christophobia’ calls on Christians to sign their petition before the deadline of Palm Sunday, in the hope of urging Her Majesty’s Government to deliver a comprehensive policy framework before Easter. But in the consideration of increasing Christophobia, let’s not forget that we were warned: ‘And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.’