Queen remembers people who face hardship for their faith

Coptic Archbishop Angaelos asked people to be generous towards others and in their communities during the pandemic.(Photo: Coptic Orthodox Church UK)

The Queen has paid tribute to people suffering for their faith in a message to mark Nayrouz, the Coptic New Year. 

She praised the "faithful witness and resilience" of Coptic Christians, who have endured centuries of persecution in Egypt. 

The Queen's message was read out at a Nayrouz service held this week at St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey. 

"Occasions such as this provide an opportunity to remember all those around the world who suffer hardship on account of their faith, especially in recent times. They remain in our thoughts and prayers," she said.

"At this time of reflection as you remember and honour the faithful witness and resilience of Coptic Christians throughout the ages, I wish all in the Coptic community a peaceful and blessed year ahead."

Nayrouz is celebrated each year on 11 September but the service was held later than usual because of the pandemic. 

Speaking on the theme of new beginnings, Coptic Archbishop Angaelos said, "There are so many around us who are starting afresh and yet doing so with considerable struggle."

With the ongoing challenges of Covid, he asked people to be generous in their relationships with others and in their wider community.

"Today we must think more about others than ourselves. Let us not look at others from our own perspective, but theirs," he said.

"When we see people journeying, let us walk in their shoes, for at least a small part of their journey, so that maybe then the complexity and challenge of those new beginnings may be better understood."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, in his message, spoke of "the martyrs whose transition from death to life has so richly nourished the Church", and who continue to inspire Christians today.

The Prince of Wales lamented the "dreadful hardship" endured by some people because of their faith and spoke of the importance of gathering together in prayer.

"Gathering together is an essential part of religious and community life. It helps us feel connected, not just at an individual level but, importantly, to something larger than ourselves," he said.

"After such a challenging year for the global community, I am encouraged to know that the Feast of Nayrouz, the marking of the beginning of the Coptic new Year, will be a moment to see each other in person.

"In challenging times, the fact that the annual Nayrouz Service brings together so many people from different backgrounds and walks of life alongside the Coptic Orthodox community in the UK is a true symbol of solidarity and unity.

"As communities around the world continue to face persecution and endure dreadful hardship for their faith, I join you today in prayer for all those who continue to suffer injustice and religious persecution."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the "resilience and character" of the Coptic community, and reiterated the government's commitment to religious freedom.

"As you commemorate the lives of so many Christians and people of all faiths and none who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their faith or belief, it is important for us all to remember that faith and minority groups continue to suffer persecution around the world. Respect for people of faiths is of fundamental importance to Her Majesty's Government," he said. 

"I hope that these celebrations usher in a blessed and peaceful year for the Coptic Orthodox Church community both here in Britain and worldwide."