iLocal News Archives

Excerpt from INSIGHT Spring 2024 – The Voice of the Church in the Middle East SAT-7 UK

Visit any town or village in the UK, and you’re likely to find at least one old, stone church building, placed there by the forebears of our faith. My own church, near Chippenham, is over 150 years old, founded by local evangelical Christians in 1865. But believers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have a far more ancient Christian heritage – in places dating back more than 2,000 years!

I was fascinated to read Archbishop Angaelos’ history of Christianity in Egypt (pp.4–5), where the church is said to have been founded by the apostle Mark himself. Sadly, across much of the region, the Christian presence and biblical history has been largely forgotten or even erased. If you’re interested in discovering more of this overlooked heritage, you’ll love our new book, 40 Days of Prayer for the Middle East. Part of it is included here.

In most parts of the MENA today, the Church is under extreme pressure – but SAT-7 is giving them a voice. In Afghanistan, where Christians are unable to meet together for fear of death, SAT-7 is providing teaching courses online (pp.6–7). And in the Holy Land, SAT-7 has been raising up the peaceful voices of the local Church in a time of division and violence (pp.8–9).

In Psalm 119:90, we read: “Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.” Every time I step into my church building, I’m reminded to give thanks for the generations of believers who went before me. And we give thanks that faith in Christ endures in the MENA, in no small part through the witness of faithful believers on SAT-7.

Rachel Fadipe

Executive Director, SAT-7 UK

Praise from a gathering of 10,000 Christians at a special worship event in Lebanon was said to be “louder than the blast of bombs” as leaders affirmed the power of Church unity in the “afflicted” Middle East region.

The event, Beirut 2024, was held recently as part of celebrations for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18–25 January) and the 50th anniversary of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). It was covered live by SAT-7 ARABIC as well as by other Christian channels and Lebanese MTV.

Heads of churches and thousands of believers took part in the special night of worship and prayer in Lebanon, made all the more poignant against a backdrop of conflict and escalating tensions in the region.

Opening the event, Professor Dr Michel Abs, Secretary General of the MECC, encouraged the worshippers about the impact of their unity in Christ: “Our chant tonight will be ascending to heaven, with the power of the Spirit that unites us, and it will be, in this afflicted region, stronger than the screams of haters and murderers of man, and louder than the blast of their bombs.”

A choir of 300 singers and musicians from different churches led the congregation of church leaders and worshippers through an uplifting night filled with spiritual songs and prayers. They sang hymns representing various liturgical traditions to highlight Christian unity through music.

“Our spiritual evening tonight is the product of the Holy Spirit, through believers, who worked with persistence and determination to make it happen and bring together the one Church of Christ with its cultural diversity and richness, in which the Middle East abounds,” added Prof. Abs.

Heads of churches shared prayers and reflections on the importance of unity and peace in the Middle East. Rev. Dr Paul Haidostian prayed:

“Lord Jesus, on the day you died for us you prayed for your disciples to be one just as you are in the Father and the Father is in you. Let us unite in you so you can give us joy through your prayer of unity. Let us find in you the way that leads to unity in you and obedience to you.”

Beirut 2024 is the first event in a program of activities by the MECC to celebrate its 50th anniversary year.

Egypt was one of the first places to hear the Gospel, but centuries of persecution and upheaval have taken their toll on its Christian population and its Christian heritage has been largely forgotten. Annabel Moule, SAT-7’s Communications & Resources Officer, recently recently caught up with Archbishop Angaelos, the Coptic Archbishop of London and Chair of SAT-7’s International Council, to talk about Egypt’s Christian history and the Church’s presence today.

Could you tell us about the history of Christianity in Egypt?

Christianity came to Egypt in the middle of the first century with Saint Mark,
the writer of the second gospel, who preached in Alexandria. At the time, Alexandria was a hub of understanding, learning and faith, and the Egyptian Church fathers contributed richly to the early centuries of the church and the doctrines we uphold today.

So Christianity has been in existence in Egypt since about 55 AD and continues to exist today. There are about 10 million Christians in Egypt, representing about 10% of the population. They also represent, quite sadly, about 80% of all the Christians in the Middle East now, because in most other countries the majority of Christians have left.

Aside from wanting Egyptians to know the Gospel, what would you like them to know about their Christian heritage?

I think it’s important for us to recount the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church, because then we see that Christianity had its foundational presence here and has grown and flourished in places in which it is now diminishing in numbers.

Although we speak about decreasing numbers of Christians in the MENA, those who are still there are incredibly courageous and faithful. So whether it’s historical or contemporary, I think it is important for the rest of the world to see the nature of the Church’s reaction to persecution. And as the body of Christ, when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. We cannot sit and watch our sisters and brothers suffer and not feel a sense of compassion.

The Coptic Orthodox Church has lived one form of persecution or another for the past 2,000 years. The church is proud of its heritage and honours the life of martyrs, but also doesn’t live in
a state of victimhood. What we have done is taken that experience and used it to advocate for others – that’s why I have set up an advocacy office here in London. I always say that if we have faced this persecution, then we should never allow anyone else to face it quietly. We should do our best to use this experience to benefit others.

What’s the current situation for Christians in Egypt?

The situation of Christians in Egypt recently has seen an improvement, compared to the so-called Arab Spring and subsequent uprising ten years ago. At that time, we had attacks on churches and places of worship at a level that has not been seen in our contemporary history.

Things are slightly better now. There are no longer the mass attacks we had then, but there are still attacks in the rural areas. I think the government are doing their best to maintain a spirit of peace and collaboration. The outlying areas still need work, and that’s going to take time, but we are thankful the situation is better.

As the Chair of SAT-7’s International Council, how do you see SAT-7 making a difference?

During the pandemic, I met with the SAT-7 board and I said that this was SAT-7’s time, because while everyone was looking into how to get into people’s homes to serve them, that’s what SAT-7 was already doing. That’s what SAT-7 does day to day, getting into people’s homes, which is incredibly important.

SAT-7 serves the Christian community in the MENA, but there are also others who will be watching. And if we follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who tells us to “let our lights shine, that people may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven,” then this is one way to let light shine where people see it, give glory to God, and follow him.

Lastly, I was wondering if you could tell us how we can pray for Christians in Egypt and around the world?

The first thing I always ask for in prayer is wisdom. We pray wisdom upon individuals and the Church collectively, so we can look at the current

situations in the world and respond appropriately. We pray wisdom
upon those in power – the politicians, policymakers, civil servants, authorities, security services – everyone who contributes to Egyptian society.

And of course, we pray for those who are suffering. As I said, things are better in Egypt, but there are Christians suffering all over the MENA – in Iraq, Syria, the Holy Land, and so many other places. We pray the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ for everyone living

in hardship and persecution, that they can see beyond it to experience God’s glory. And we pray for those who perpetrate the hatred, that their hearts be open to the goodness of God.



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