Archbishop of Canterbury message: don't give in to despair


The Archbishop of Canterbury today warns against succumbing to despair as the roll call of terror attacks, shootings, bombings and murders goes on.

In his New Year message filmed for the BBC at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield, Staffordshire, Archbishop Justin Welby acknowledges that each day brings its toll of bad news, or disasters inflicted on the innocent by war and disease.

"In 2014 we saw so much of that in the Middle East, in North East Nigeria, with the persecution of Christians and other minorities. And in the week before Christmas itself, there was the horrendous massacre of children in Pakistan," he says.

"There is so much suffering that at the New Year it is tempting to look inwards in despair, but we are not a country that turns our back on the suffering and the weak and the helpless." He pleaded for continuing generosity from the British public to help those in need around the world, such as countries stricken by Ebola.

Separately, a leading bishop from one of the world's most persecuted Christian communities calls in his New Year message for more to be done to combat the "suffering, destruction and devastation" of ancient Christian and other communities in the Middle East.

Bishop Angaelos, leader of the UK's Coptic Orthodox Church, warns that it is becoming "increasingly difficult" to give hope to those suffering gross violations of their human rights.

He says that much has been done to help already, but it still goes nowhere near far enough.

Describing 2014 as a "challenging year" in which some of those trying to help had paid the ultimate price, he described the "extremist narrative" seeking the destruction of centuries-old communities.

Religious leaders had shown a greater sense of responsibility and commitment in speaking out against the human rights violations. "This response however, is still disproportionate to the suffering, destruction and devastation that has been experienced, and much remains to be done," he said.

"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."

His remarks follow a terrible year for the region, characterised by ruthless murder, beheadings and wholesale ethnic cleansing of Yazidis, Christians and others. Earlier this month, Vicar of Baghdad Andrew White reported that Islamic State terrorists even beheaded four children who refused to convert to Islam.

He said IS has hounded Christians out of Iraq and that they were "killed in huge numbers, they chopped their children in half, they chopped their heads off, and they moved north and it was so terrible what happened".

The Jerusalem Post reported: "Anti-Christian violence in 2014 saw a transformation from under-told news coverage, to routine reports of radical Islamists seeking to obliterate Christianity's presence." Describing it as religious cleansing or a type of cultural genocide, the posted listed Iraq, Syria, parts of Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and Pakistan as worst affected.

Nina Shea, director of the Washington- based Hudson Institute's Centre for Religious Freedom, said a goal of Islamic extremists was total Islamisation: "This has nearly been achieved in Iraq, which a decade ago was home to one of the four most robust Christian communities in the Arab world."