Church's Silence Contributing to Decline of Christianity in Middle East, Says Bishop

The Church's silence on refugees has been a contributing factor to the decline of Christianity in the Middle East, the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the U.K. said Monday.

His Grace Bishop Angaelos addressed a conference hosted by the World Council of Churches and the U.N. to speak of practical ways leaders can respond to the refugee crisis.

He joined a number of other church leaders to highlight the mass exodus of Christians from their homeland in the Middle East.

"Where there was once a 25 percent Christian population in the Middle East it is now around 5 percent, and tragically 4 percent of those 5 percent are in Egypt," he said.

"Our silence as Churches, nations, and as a world community, has been a contributing factor to this," said Angaelos in an impassioned plea.

"We have lowered the threshold of human dignity; if people are not dying then it has become acceptable... yet it is up to us to defend those whose God-given rights and freedoms are violated."

He called on the Church, as "the largest NGO in the world," to work "in collaboration" in responding to this situation.

Christians are not registering as refugees in UNHCR camps and a result "become doubly disadvantaged: persecuted for their religion, Christian or otherwise, and then also by not having equal access to international schemes," Angaelos said, reiterating a point he has made a number of times in the past.

"We need a unified and unifying approach, to work collaboratively and to understand that we have a role and responsibility to act.

"This is an ideal opportunity for us to prove that we can effectively and collaboratively respond to this situation, and make a real difference."

He concluded by saying, "the message of this gathering to those suffering can be summarized in the words of Revelation 1:9: 'We share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance.'"

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