Bishop Angaelos, a U.K.-based leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, stood before the media holding up a thick report on “genocide” in the Middle East that featured a 2015 photo of Islamic state extremists preparing to behead 21 members of his faith in Libya.
“They were not killed for any other reason but they were Christians,” he said Thursday (March 10), joining with others calling attention to religious persecution.
Hours later, he addressed board members of the National Association of Evangelicals, explaining the basics of his 15 million-member faith — “Coptic Orthodox just means Egyptian Orthodox” — and telling them that what they have in common “far, far exceeds” their differences.
A year after losing 21 fellow Copts, Angaelos continues his bridge-building work, seeking support for persecuted people of many faiths, visiting Muslim refugees and helping evangelicals realize that the Orthodox are part of the Christian flock.
“Being Christians and being able to forgive, it’s important for us to also know that we need to be reconcilers and that conflict is something that is detestable to God,” he said in an interview after his meeting with the NAE board.
The Coptic Orthodox Church established by St. Mark, the writer of the Bible’s second Gospel, remains the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East, with some 13 million adherents in Egypt. He told the NAE board his faith’s roots include the creation of the Nicene Creed, still recited across Christendom, and a monastic tradition now shared in the West.
“When I’m walking through airport terminals or down the streets and I see nuns or brothers, I feel an instant connection because we have that common heritage,” said Angaelos, who wears the cowl of a monk beneath his round black bishop’s headdress.
In the immediate aftermath of the massacre of his church members on a beachfront in Libya, Angaelos made headlines when he confirmed their death with a tweet that closed with two reconciling words: “#FatherForgive.”
“I wasn’t angry but I was very sad, not just because they had died but the way they had died,” he said in an interview.
He told the NAE board members that he believes his fellow Copts, proclaiming their faith to their last breath, were the ones who demonstrated power rather than the terrorists who held knives to their throats.
“The world saw that Christian witness was more powerful,” he said.
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SOURCE: Religion News Service