Middle Eastern Christians celebrated at Westminster Abbey

 

Embrace partners were among the Middle Eastern Christians who gathered at Westminster Abbey in December, for a service held to celebrate their contribution.

In an opening reflection, the Prince of Wales gave a heartfelt account of how Christians in the region had inspired him with their faith and courage.

'Time and again I have been deeply humbled and profoundly moved by the extraordinary grace and capacity for forgiveness that I have seen in those who have suffered so much,’ he said.

'Forgiveness, as many of you know far better than I, is not a passive act or submission rather it is an act of supreme courage, of a refusal to be defined by the sin against you of determination and love will triumph over hate.'

The Prince emphasised that ’extremism and division are by no means inevitable’, noting that, ‘throughout history . . . Muslims and Christian communities of different beliefs have shown that it is possible to live side by side as neighbours and friends’.

The service, which Embrace helped to organise, was attended by 13 representatives of Churches in the Middle East and North Africa.

Each member of the congregation was provided with a revised copy of Embrace’s short guide to the Christian Presence in the Lands of the Bible, for which the Archbishop of Canterbury has provided a new foreword.

Among the congregants was Sister Maria, head of Coptic convent of the Daughters of St Mary in Egypt, an Embrace partner which provides education, healthcare & legal advice to garbage collectors at Ezbet El Nakhl.

In his address, Archbishop Welby urged the congregation to demonstrate solidarity with Christians in the Middle East.

'Those who remain faithful in suffering are beacons and lights of hope and an inspiration to us all,’ he said. 'To you who are from the region, we owe a debt of profound gratitude. For your suffering calls us to faithfulness, and to fellowship.’

In a tour of the Holy Land last year he visited two Anglican hospitals in Gaza, including al-Ahli Arab hospital, another Embrace partner.

Among those who provided testimony at the service was Sister Nazek Matty, a Dominican Sister of St Catherine of Siena, in Iraq, who described how she and her fellow Sisters had returned to the plains of Nineveh, after fleeing ISIS, because of their determination ’to live our beliefs in the place where we belong, and where we feel deeply connected to our roots’.

In 2019, Embrace will begin working in Iraq, where Christians who have been displaced, often many times, are rebuilding communities.

The New Testament reading, from Luke's gospel, at the Abbey service was delivered, in Arabic, by the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani:

'No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.’

The service was a reminder of the steadfast witness of Christians in the Middle East, who shone, Archbishop Welby, said with ’the light of obedience’.

 


Madeleine Radford is an Embrace trustee.

Image credit: Andrew Dunsmore/Westminster Abbey
Pictured from left to right: His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles and The Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr John Hall.