'Martyrs witnesses, not victims'
Religious martyrs are not victims and the media must report responsibly, urges Archbishop Angaelos
In a speech delivered last night (4 July) as part of the Embrace the Middle East annual lecture, Archbishop Angaelos has urged the public not to view martyrs as victims but rather as witnesses. The first Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London also challenged media to take seriously the responsibility they have in reporting persecution.
The Archbishop’s comments, which were made as part of the event hosted at St Margaret’s Church in Westminster Abbey, came following the Bishop of Truro’s interim report into religious persecution found ‘genocidal’ levels of persecution experienced by Christians around the world.
'When we advocate, it must be about them [the martyrs] and their suffering, not us. We must not patronise the communities there. Let us not export our own visions of who they must be, but honour who they are. We need to listen to them. Labelling martyrs as victims dishonours what they are doing. They don’t see themselves as victims, but witnesses. We should recognise their vulnerability, but vulnerability is different to victimhood.'
Archbishop Angealos also challenged media to be responsible in their reporting of persecution. 'We are all completely fed by the media. It’s important for the media to be responsible [in how they report persecution] because a headline just for a few extra subscriptions can sometimes put lives at risk.'
Archbishop Angaelos was joined in the discussion by Timothy Radcliffe, OP a Roman Catholic priest and Dominican Friar of the English Provence.
Radcliffe also challenged governments to tackle persecution more seriously, “We have to become people of profound peace, that will be our witness. Might all governments make aid dependent on the end of religious persecution.”
The annual lecture was hosted by Embrace the Middle East an inter-denominational Christian charity seeking to improve the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the Middle East by working in partnership with local Christians in education, healthcare and community development.
Embrace’s CEO, Tim Livesey commented after the event, 'Having Archbishop Angaelos and Father Timothy speak on this apposite and urgent issue was an important challenge for all of us to, not only to remember those being persecuted for their faith, but also to listen to them, to treat them with dignity and even to learn from them as where there is suffering, there is often a deeper hope and a greater light than we experience in the western context.'