The General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK has praised Egyptian Christians for the forgiveness they have shown in the face of escalating oppression and extreme violence.
Bishop Angaelos recently spoke at a hearing in Washington in which he told Congress that the persecution of religious minorities in Egypt "has frequently been embedded in process and policy, then translated into dealings with citizens on unequal grounds".
He has made repeated calls for better treatment for all Egyptians and fairer laws. The North African nation is currently the 22nd worst country for Christian persecution according to the Open Doors World Watch List released today, with 83 Christians murdered for their faith last year.
In his nativity address on Tuesday, the bishop focused on the biblical importance of reconciliation "made manifest most powerfully through the Incarnation, and ultimately in the Cross of our Lord".
"Through the Incarnation, we, as the most precious of all creation, once again became reconciled to God, our Creator and loving Father," he said, quoting Ephesians 2:16 which tells us we are reconciled to God "in one body through the Cross, thereby putting to death the enmity".
"The heart of God has always been one of reconciliation, to restore what was lost and to repair broken bonds," the bishop noted.
He went on to emphasise the importance of imitating Christ within communities, showing grace, forgiveness and love to those around us, even in the face of persecution.
He reminds believers that during His life on earth, Jesus suffered real pain and heartache, and violence at the hands of his oppressors.
"Our Lord lived in adversity and endured hostility with all humility in order that we may attain strength through him, and in that knowledge, to overcome any challenges we may encounter."
He asserted that true strength lay in faithfully following Jesus' commands to love and honour others, using the "powerful witness of Christians in the Middle East" to show how forgiveness testifies to the Lord's goodness.
Despite consistent violence and abuse, Egyptian Christians have shown "resilience, humility, restraint and love" towards their persecutors.
"The world has truly witnessed the manifest love of Christ in the spirit of forgiveness demonstrated by members of our community in Egypt as they have suffered repeated assaults and endured hostility, incitement and hatred.
"In bearing the very personal attacks on individuals, communities, churches, homes and businesses, the super-human power of restraint and forgiveness, which can only come from our Lord, has overcome all that has sought to threaten our very existence in Egypt."
"There will always be an opportunity to be a reconciling agent," he said, as he invited Christians to demonstrate practically and actively the love of Christ, "providing, in the midst of such apparent darkness, a guiding light and the opportunity for all to be reconciled to Christ."
The bishop finished his address with a prayer of blessing and protection upon Christians all over the world, particularly those who suffer persecution and violence as a result of their faith.