The Third Annual Coptic Solidarity Conference which wound up its sessions on Friday June 29, was attended by an unprecedented number of prominent political figures.
Amongst the most prominent figures attending the conference was Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael H. Posner. There was also a number of Congressmen such as Senator Roy Blunt and Congressman Frank Wolf. Also in attendance was Lord Alton from the British House of Lords and Jim Karygiannis, a senior member of the Canadian Parliament.
In his inaugural address, Adel Guindy, Head of the Coptic Solidarity Organization, said that Copts have contributed to Egypt’s revolution from its early beginnings. However, he said, Copts paid a dear price as extremist movements emerged since then.
Guindy explained that due to the deteriorating security situation churches were burned, the army massacred peaceful Coptic demonstrators and mowed them down by military armored vehicles. Also, biased and unfair extralegal and ad hoc rulings have ordered the expulsion of complete families from their homes and their villages, he added.
Guindy adamantly declared that in case the United States and the International Community were not interested in helping Egypt move ahead towards democracy and achieve its pursuit to further the people’s indisputable rights, they should then back off and stop undermining the country’s endeavor to achieve true democracy.
During the conference Michael Posner faced a barrage of severe criticism regarding the United States policies. Posner denied allegations that the Obama Administration was in favor of appointing a member of the Muslim Brotherhood as president of Egypt.
The Assistant Secretary of State’s denial was met, though, with deep skepticism by the audience.
Michael Posner explained that members of the Muslim Brotherhood are in power because they were elected through the ballot box; therefore, he said, the U.S. has to deal with them as such. He further stated that Americans, whenever they met with Egyptian officials, during the rule of Mubarak or at present, they have always showed concern and addressed “minorities’ issues and religious freedoms”. He also promised to convey to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the views of the conference.
Ambassador Suzan Cook, the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, said that the United States is monitoring Copts and religious minorities’ conditions in Egypt, and is addressing relevant issues with the Egyptian officials.
For her part, Dr. Katherine Lantos, the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, expressed approval to include Egypt on the shortlist of “nations of particular concern”. Dr. Lantos, however, suggested that she has found some positive aspects in Al-Azhar’s document.
Lord David Alton, member of the British House of Lords, vehemently criticized the West, America and Europe for failing to grasp the dangerous progress of events in a crucial country such as Egypt. “What happens there won’t happen here, is a precept that history has proven wrong. What happens there – if ignored – will inevitably reach us here,” stated Lord Alton.
Sheikh Sami El-Khoury, President of the World Maronite Union, expressed full solidarity with the Copts. He added “Christians in Lebanon stand in full solidarity with their brothers in Egypt. There are twelve million Middle East Christians in Diaspora who are more than willing to sacrifice their blood for the sake of their Coptic brothers”.
Coptic human rights activist Magdy Khalil said that the Third Annual Conference of the Coptic Solidarity Organization is by far the biggest Coptic conference with respect to formal and official participation by top officials in the American administration, and also for the importance and diversity of speakers.
In his speech, Rev Father Felopater Gamil severely criticized the U.S. policies on Egypt. Rev Father Gamil said “Those who imagine that the post-revolution events in Egypt are a normal change towards more democracy, are making a big mistake. It is not just a mistake but rather a terrible crime against humanity to support theocratic regimes using religion to manipulate and fool credulous people.
Nina Shea, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of the Center for Religious Freedom, spoke elaborately about Coptic problems in Egypt and accused the American Administration of neglecting these problems. Ms. Shea further stressed that the American Administration has offered nothing to the Copts
Carl Moeller, CEO of the American Open Door Organization, said that in case the world continued to ignore the problems of Christian minorities, the Middle East will turn into a museum for Christians. Moeller further asserted that the so-called Arab Spring has turned into a “Winter” for Middle East Christians.
Dr. Michele Clark, Board Member of Christian Solidarity International and Professor of studies on illicit trade in humans at George Town University, addressed the issue of Coptic girls abduction and disappearance. Dr. Clark had previously testified on Capitol Hill on the continued abuse of Coptic females in Egypt.
The conference’s final session was devoted to interventions from Christian minorities in the Middle East, giving them a chance to be heard and to talk about their conditions.
At the same session, the Coptic Solidarity Organization presented Dr. Selim Naguib, the veteran rights activist and great Coptic freedom fighter and founder of Canada Coptic Movement back in 1969, who was also a judge at Montreal Court, for his efforts and valuable services to the Coptic cause over several decades.
The Canadian human rights activist Farouk Malek received the shield on behalf of Dr. Selim Naguib.
June 28-30, 2012
US National Security and Advancing Human and Minority Rights in Egypt: Is there a policy connection?
June 28 : Policy Day (Capitol Visitors Center, HVC 201, Near Congressional Auditorium)
10:30 Opening remarks, Adel Guindy, President, Coptic Solidarity
Congressional address by several Members of the Congress to be expected during the day depending their schedules
10:45 First Session: Advancing Human and Minority Rights in Egypt: Policy Imperatives
Chairman: Hon. Fred Grandy, Vice President of Center for Security Policy.
- Dr. Kurt J. Werthmuller, Research Fellow, Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute
- Fr. Filopater, priest, a leader of the Maspero Youth Movement, Egypt
- Ms. Stephanie Hammond, Foreign Policy Legislative Assistant and Director of the International Religious Freedom Caucus
12:15 Break (sandwiches served in the room)
12:45 Second Session: Why advancing human and minority rights should be a American and European national security priority?
Chairman: Dr. Walid Phares, Advisor to the Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the US House of Representatives and is a Co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Legislative Group on Counter Terrorism, a Euro-American Caucus.
- Lord David Alton, Member of the House of Lords and Director, Center for Religious Freedom
- Hon. Jim Karygiannis MP, Canadian House of Commons
- Dr. Scott Filpse, Deputy Director for Policy and Research USCIRF
- Official message from members of the European Parliament
- Mr. Sami El-Koury, President, World Maronite Union
15:15 Key Note Speaker: Dr Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of USCIRF, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice:
"Religious Freedom in Egypt: Recommendations for U.S. Policy."
Third Session: U.S. foreign policy and the rise of extremism in the Middle East.
Chairperson: Ms. Emilie Kao, J.D., Harvard Law School, Senior International Legal Counsel, previously at the Office of International Religious Freedom, the State Department
- Ms. Nina Shea, director, Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute
- Dr Zuhdi Jasser, President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD)
- Dr. Tawfik Hamid, Chair for the Study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
17 :30 Close
June 29 : Conference (Dulles A/P Marriott Hotel)
09:00 First Session: The status of religious freedom in the Middle East
Chairman: Mr. Gary Lane, Sr. International Correspondent, CBN
- Ms. Ann Buwalda Esq., Director, Jubilee Campaign
- Dr. Carl A. Moeller, President/CEO, Open Doors USA
- Pr. Michele A. Clark, Board Member, Christian Solidarity International
- Dr. William Weessa, Founder and editor, Middle East Christian News (MCN)
- Ms. Tina Ramirez, Director of International and Government Relations, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
- Mr. Jeffery King, President, Christian Concern International
12:00 Lunch Break
01:30 Second Session: U.S. approach to religious freedom in the Middle East
Chairman: Mr. Raymond Ibrahim Middle East and Islam specialist, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
- Mr. Emanuel Ogebe Esq., Managing Partner USN Law Group
- Ms. Faith J. H. McDonnell, Director of Religious Liberty, The Institute on Religion and Democracy
- Mr. Jordan Sekulow, Director of Policy and International Operations, The American Center for Law & Justice
- Todd Nettleton, Director of Media Development, The Voice of the Martyrs
03:30 Coffee Break
04:00 Third Session: Minorities under Islamic rule.
Chairman: Mr. Magdi Khalil, Coptic Solidarity Board Member
- Dr. Essam Abdallah, Egyptian liberal intellectual
- Mr. Maher Aziz, President, Egyptian Democratic Solidarity, Cairo
- Dr. William Assad, C-CAP Coptic Christians Against Persecution
- Mr. John Hajjar Esq., World Council for the Cedars Revolution
There will be a participation from leaders of Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac, Southern Sudanese, Beja (East Sudan), Darfur, Nubians, Armenians, Bebers Kabyles, Lebanese, Syrian reformers, Kurdish, Arab Liberals, Palestinian democrats, Muslim Liberals and Conservatives of the US, Jewish and other community NGOs.
June 30 : Coptic Solidarity General Assembly (Members only)