MARTYRDOM of Christians is not confined to history, but is happening today in the Middle East, the Coptic Archbishop of London, Archbishop Angaelos, has warned.
Delivering a lecture in St Margaret’s, Westminster, last week, at an event run by the Christian charity Embrace the Middle East, Archbishop Angaelos said that the Church in the West needed to reclaim the language and theology of martyrdom to understand properly the persecution of its brothers and sisters.
“Usually, when we say the word ‘martyrdom’ it’s something we relegate to history books, and often ancient history,” he said.
“And yet a martyr is a witness who pays the ultimate price. Whether it is through church bombings, shootings of the faithful, attacks on people celebrating feasts, villages targeted directly because they have a majority Christian presence or a very pressured minority. . . We see all of these things happen.”
In his lecture, “The Age of Martyrs is Not Over”, Archbishop Angaelos deplored the failure of the West to recognise properly the gravity and scale of attacks on Christians in his homeland.
“For decades, what we have seen in the Middle East is things happen, and they are just left to happen. We put it aside as just how things work, it’s the nature of the region. We turn a blind eye to it.”
The other speaker at the event, a former Master of the Dominicans, the Most Revd Timothy Radcliffe OP, described how Britain was becoming a “post-Christian nation” that was experiencing a widespread “flight from belief”.
“I am really convinced that it is encounter with martyrdom that will bring people back to their own faith,” he said. All the baptised should be ready to give their lives as martyrs — not because the God whom Christians follow was a masochistic deity who wanted his people to die, but because someone so profoundly alive in Christ did not shrink in the face of death, he said.