The newly-elected president issued executive orders last Friday which suspended the entire US refugee admissions system for 120 days, even though it was already one of the most rigorous vetting regimens in the world, suspended the Syrian refugee program indefinitely, and banned entry from seven majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for 90 days.
His Grace Bishop Angaelos – who is General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK and is based at the church’s UK centre at Shephalbury Manor – issued a statement saying: “The current state of geo-politics and the numerous terrorist attacks around our world in recent months have led to a growing uncertainty and global anxiety with regards to both internal and external security.
“While it is important to safeguard individuals, communities and entire nations, it is undeniable that there has been widespread instability and conflict that has also led to the inhumane treatment and vast displacement of millions of vulnerable people across the Middle East and elsewhere.
“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. “
In a thinly veiled reference to President Trump’s policies, Bishop Angaelos added: “We are already witnessing the generic application of law and policy running the risk of violating the same rights they seek to protect, potentially doubly discriminating against vulnerable families and individuals fleeing war and conflict by denying them the opportunity to seek refuge and safe haven.
“As Christians following Biblical teachings and traditions existing for millennia, we believe that God instructs us to provide refuge and hospitality to all humanity indiscriminately. He does not stop there in His instruction, but goes further to urge us to love all, even those who consider us their enemies.
“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.”
The Coptic Church whose largest congregations are in Egypt has faced a number of deadly terrorist attacks in recent years.
The most recent, on December 11 – when 25 Coptic Christians were murdered in a bomb attack on a church in Cairo – was described by Bishop Angaelos as the ‘worst of humanity’.