A message for the New Year by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop
of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom
2014 has been a challenging year, demanding greater humanitarian assistance and advocacy for a variety of people across the world, and in many instances this has generated an immensely positive response from individuals and society as a whole. For that reason, while reflecting on the darkness of the tragedies that have been unfolding, we must also remember to give thanks for the light shining through the good works of faithful people in their response to them, some of whom have sadly paid the ultimate price.
Through these occurrences the world has experienced an extremist narrative seeking the destruction of centuries-old communities. In response to this alarming development however, there have been greater unified efforts across the ecumenical and inter-religious spectrums to express solidarity with, advocate on behalf of, and provide much needed aid to, those suffering.
Religious and civic leaders have been challenged to speak out against violations of basic human rights, and in many cases have responded to that call with a greater sense of responsibility and commitment. This response however, is still disproportionate to the suffering, destruction and devastation that has been experienced, and much remains to be done.
It is increasingly difficult to provide hope with the backdrop of those who continue to suffer gross violations of their rights, and yet we are reminded, particularly at this time of the year, that through the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the whole of humanity has been freely gifted with respect, love and peace through the message of Salvation.
The global community is founded upon the safeguarding of fundamental principles of God-given freedom, liberty, and equality, and while many around the world are denied these rights, we who are free to enjoy them must advocate and do all we can to protect those same rights for them. We have an individual and collective responsibility towards our brothers and sisters, regardless of their religious affiliation, as every individual is entitled to live in peace, and with the freedom to choose and live his or her faith, as long as that does not impede on the choices of others.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was born into adversity and poverty, and at an early age fled to, and sought asylum in, Egypt. His family fled from oppressive persecution, and He continued to live His life facing immense challenges and struggles in order that we may find comfort in His example and His victory over all that seeks to overcome us. Our Lord warned us that “in the world you will have tribulation,” but then immediately reassures us with His powerfully comforting words “but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
When considering oppression on a global scale, or closer to home, we must remember that God bestowed basic human rights upon the whole of humanity, and where those rights are violated we must act, because we are reminded that “faith [in this principle] without works is dead” (James 2:26).
We should take the opportunity at the beginning of this New Year to consider how we as individuals and communities can positively impact the lives of those around us, beginning with correcting those things within ourselves that may cause pain to others.
I wish you all the blessings of the Feast of the holy Nativity, and a New Year filled with good health, success and joy in all that it is dear.
Source: Coptic Orthodox Church