'We must be reconcilers,' says UK Coptic Orthodox Church

Bishop Angaelos (r) with House of Commons speaker John Bercow (l)

A senior bishop in the UK Coptic Orthodox Church has spoken of the need for reconciliation in Egypt in the wake of recent violence.

UK Copts were gathered at Westminster Abbey last night to commemorate the Coptic Feast of Nayrouz and to celebrate the new Coptic Year.

General Bishop, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, spoke about the changing political climate in Egypt and recent challenges in the Middle East.

The removal of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has triggered the deaths of Muslim Brotherhood supporters as well as attacks on over a hundred Christian properties, with at least three Christians killed.

The service at Westminster Abbey commemorate the Coptic Feast of Nayrouz and the new Coptic Year

Bishop Angaelos called for restoration and reconciliation between Egypt's divided communities.

"We pray that Egypt, a land once blessed by the Lord as a place of refuge for Him in His infancy, returns to being a nation for all," he said.

"We must be reconcilers. We are empowered through reconciliation and through newness."

There are approximately 10 million Coptic Christians in Egypt, representing 10 to 15 per cent of the population. The community has suffered killings, abductions and destruction of property in recent months.

As an example, Baroness Caroline Cox told of six-year-old Cyril Joseph, who was kidnapped last May.

"According to a report, the boy's family are in tatters after paying £300,000 to the abductor who still killed the child," she said.

"I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to pay a brief tribute to your brothers and sisters who are held in the front line of faith and freedom in your homeland of Egypt where things are currently under great threat," she added.

The service was joined by parliamentarians and members of other denominations

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt called the discrimination against Christians a "moral outrage".

"We must do all we can to give hope back to those suffering forms of violence, whatever religion or belief they hold," he said.

"To break the cycle of violence we must accept our common humanity and stand up for each other," he added.

He joined House of Commons speaker John Bercow in offering prayers to the people of Egypt as he thanked Christians for not responding to the recent tragedies with anger but "simply with a reaffirmation of faith".

During yesterday's service, a message from the Queen was also read out in which she said she was grateful for the prayers of UK Copts and sent her "warmest wishes to you all for a most memorable service to mark the new Coptic year".