Bishop Angaelos, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, told an international conference this week that there is much to lose if the international community doesn’t take ownership of the suffering of Christians in the Middle East.

Speaking at ‘Christians in the Middle East: What Future?’ in Bari, Italy, he said there must be ‘greater collaboration between our churches, governments and organisations… If we do not take ownership in responding to this situation and the needs of those suffering in the Middle East now, opportunists will take our place and use this tragedy and its victims for their own agenda.’ He said problems might arise from an uncoordinated response and duplication and wastage of resources.

Bishop Angaelos also stressed the importance of classifying Christians in the Middle East as ‘indigenous people with roots in these lands for millennia,’ rather than just minorities: ‘They are an intrinsic part of, and a stabilising force in, the region, and losing them would be a loss to the whole world.’

The conference brought together heads of the Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches of the Middle East, along with international political and governmental representatives, journalists and academics.