Bishop Angaelos, a leader in a church that is a frequent victim of extremist Islamist attacks, has spoken out against refugee policies that discriminate. He warns of the dangers of seeking revenge.
Bishop Angaelos leads the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK. As the main church in Egypt, the Coptic church has suffered from an escalation of Islamist attacks in recent months, such as December’s church bombing in Cairo. The Bishop has previously written written about forgiveness for such crimes.
President Donald Trump’s latest restriction of refugee access to the USA has prompted a large number of Christian leaders to speak out on behalf of the refugee.
In a statement today, the Bishop acknowledges that terrorist attacks have led to “growing uncertainty and global anxiety” regarding security, and an “underlying scepticism” over border security, at the same time as the perception of a “lack of compassion” for refugees.
He says: “As a Church that frequently finds itself at the receiving end of lethal terrorist attacks, we understand far too well the need to protect communities and individuals.
“At the same time however, we must not do so in a way that compromises our integrity or goes against the humaneness with which we must address the vast majority of those who do not directly or indirectly advocate for, aspire to, or inflict harm on others.”
He appears to criticise an aspect of Trump’s executive order, that will ultimately prioritise refugees who are religious minorities in the countries they are fleeing from. “In seeking to protect individuals or a particular sector of a community, it is imperative that we do not alienate others, especially when it means denying the basic human rights and freedoms of those most vulnerable,” he says.
Along with numerous other Christian groups today, Bishop Angaelos appeals to the Bible to argue for supporting refugee programs. “We believe that God instructs us to provide refuge and hospitality to all humanity indiscriminately,” says the statement. “He does not stop there in His instruction, but goes further to urge us to love all, even those who consider us their enemies.”
He warns against the human tendency to seek revenge or to behave in the same way as the people who seek to harm us.
“While our human brokenness has led to the conflict and vulnerability we see in the world, we must not allow that same brokenness to lead us into dehumanising others, considering them less worthy of God-given rights and freedoms,” says Bishop Angaelos. He also called on all people in positions of authority to uphold “crucial values of love, acceptance and mercy”.
Bishop Angaelos concludes with: “We pray wisdom for leaders, safe passage and refuge for the vulnerable, and a realisation, by those who seek to inflict harm and terror on others, of the value and sanctity of every life.”