On 28 November 2016 a meeting was held with the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church at the House of Lords, hosted by The Lord Alton of Liverpool, at the invitation of His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.
The meeting, held under Chatham House Rules, gave opportunity for interested parliamentarians, diplomats, religious leaders and members of advocacy and human rights organisations, to listen to His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, one of Syria’s leading figures and one of its senior Christian leaders. The current situation in Syria, the suffering of its Christian communities and how others abroad can be of assistance, was discussed.
During the course of the meeting, concerns were raised over the nature of media coverage of events in Syria, and its lack of coverage of suffering communities in Western Aleppo. The concerns of the Syrian community, both Muslim and Christian, over British foreign policy and its potential long-term effects were raised.
The efforts of the Church in Syria to support and care for all members of the community indiscriminately, despite a lack of resources, were outlined. Following the meeting The Baroness Cox and The Lord Cormack both raised questions in a debate in the House of Lords concerning the situation in Aleppo.
After the meeting, Bishop Angaelos said:
“I am pleased that numerous members of parliament and the British community were given opportunity to listen to His Holiness, who is not merely a leader, but someone who lives in Syria among his flock, and who understands the gross challenges faced by Syrians. It is time for us to stop speaking aboutpeople in Syria, and start speaking and listening to them, in order to ascertain their needs and to try our utmost to meet them.
While thankful for the generosity and humanitarian aid already provided by Her Majesty’s government and the British public to suffering communities in the Middle East, what has become increasingly more evident is that Churches in Syria are left to their own devices to provide for those suffering, both Christian and Muslim, as a result of the ongoing war and crisis.
With limited resources and little to no funding from government bodies, Churches are playing a crucial role in helping to provide for the most vulnerable, and to hold communities together at a time when they themselves are under threat. The time is now for us all to do what we can to act to support their efforts, and to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected and not left to suffer under our watch.”
In the days before the meeting, Bishop Angaelos attended the consecration of St Thomas Syriac Orthodox Cathedral, with His Holiness Patriarch Aphrem II, which was also attended by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, and attended liturgy at the Cathedral with the Patriarch before welcoming him to a community reception at St Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in London.
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