Coptic Solidarity Second Annual Conference, July 8-9
Coptic Solidarity held its second Annual Conference at Washington, D.C. under the main theme of “Will Religious and Ethnic Minorities Pay the Price of the ‘Arab Spring’?”
On July 8, a special Coptic Solidarity Policy Education Day took place at the Capitol’s Congressional Auditorium. Key issues covered:
– Democracy prospects in Egypt; respect of human and minority rights,
– Persecution before and after the Arab Spring,
– Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists and the Copts,
– Need for a special envoy on religious freedom of N.E. religious minorities,
– Aid to Egypt.
After opening remarks by Coptic Solidarity president, several members of the U.S. House of Representatives gave short speeches during a session chaired by Prof. Walid Phares on “The Geopolitics of the Copts in Egypt”:
– Congressman Frank Wolf (R, VA), Committee on Appropriations
– Congresswoman Sue Myrick (R, NC), Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
– Congressman Robert Aderholt (R, AL), Committee on Appropriations
– Congressman Albio Sires (D, NJ), Foreign Affairs Committee
– Congressman Joseph R. Pitts (R, PA), Energy & Commerce Committee
– Congressman Trent Franks (R, AZ), Armed Services Committee
– Congressman Ed Royce (R, CA), Foreign Affairs Committee
They provided support to the Copts and wished that Egypt would take the road of true democracy. A number of members raised concerns about the Administration’s overtures towards religious extremists.
Other guest speakers:
– Mr Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy. He explained how Sharia is used by Islamists as a doctrine to enforce submission to a totalitarian regime.
– Dr Michael Ledeen, Senior Fellow, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He showed concern about Egypt’s situation and how Copts fight on behalf of the ‘Free World.’
– Major Brian Hooper, U.S. Army (speaking on a personal basis). He showed concern about the way the U.S. is engaging with the Brotherhood.
– Professor Essam Abdulla, President, Egyptian Democratic Solidarity. He explained the situation in Egypt and the Copts’ dilemma.
The session chaired by Dr Piero Tozzi, Director, International Religious Liberties, Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), focused on “Legal, Constitutional and Policy Issues” Guest speakers included:
– Tina Ramirez, Director Intl. Affairs, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberties. She spoke about the importance of religious freedom and protection for all minorities in Egypt.
– Jordan Sekulow, Director of International Operations, the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), and host of The Jordan Sekulow Show, a renowned daily political talk show. He considered that the Administration’s engagement with the Brotherhood is an appeasement to extremists.
– Dr Piero Tozzi spoke about Sharia and international law, and how to use international legal instances to prosecute perpetrators of religious violence.
Dr Raymond Ibrahim, Fellow, Middle East Forum, chaired a session on “The US, the West and Coptic Rights.” Guest speakers:
– Congressman Christopher Smith (R, NJ), member, Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Healthy and Human Rights. He spoke passionately of human trafficking in parts of the world and how this could be disguised.
– Elizabeth Hoffman Legislative Assistant of Congressman John Carter, addressed “Drafting HR 440 on a special envoy on religious freedom of N.E. religious Minorities”
– Justin Mayer, International Christian Concern (ICC),
– Raymond Ibrahim, provided insights on “Western Media and Persecution of Christians”
On Saturday July 9 the conference was held at the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport Hotel under the title of “Copts After January 25: What Next?” Key issues covered:
– Effective Activism, alliances,
– Media, needs & means
– Coptic Youth; in the Revolt, in Diaspora
Magdi Khalil chaired a session on “Building Coptic Coalitions”:
– Professor Lotfy Basta, ex Chairman of Cardiology Dpt., USF Florida. He spoke about “Should We Form Coalitions, and with Whom?”
– Dr. William Weessa, Media Expert, reviewed “the position of Egypt’s media towards the Copts, After Jan. 25.”
– Halim Meawad, CS Secretary “Coptic Activism Between the Needs and the Means”
“The Copts and Middle East Revolts” was the topic of a special session chaired by Prof. Walid Phares where representatives of Middle Eastern minorities and indigenous communities spoke in support of the Copts:
– Farid Ghadri, Syria Reform Party,
– Amir Abbas Fakhravar, Confederation of Iranian Students,
– Sherkoh Abbas, Syrian Kurdish Council,
– Eblan Farris, Spokesperson, World Council for the Cedars Revolution,
– Hmimiche AitMouloud, representative of the Kabyle Provisionary Government
– Jimmy Mulla, Chairman, Voices United for Sudan.
Dr Caroline Doss, CS VP, chaired a session on “Towards a new Coptic community organization”
– Steve Messeh, CS Director of Grassroots gave his views, as a recently engaged youth, about Coptic Solidarity future and the Coptic Grassroots movement.
– Marina Eskander, Coptic Activist from Cairo explained the position of the Coptic Youth in Egypt before and after the Revolution.
– Caroline Doss gave some details on contacts with various U.S. bodies.
The conference resolutions:
1- In dealing with the situation in Egypt, our stand remains that:
– It is vital for the Copts to take a proactive role in forming the future of Egypt and help prevent the worst from taking place. More than a tactical position, this is rather an existential imperative.
– The role of Copts abroad is to continue to increase awareness, and solicit the support of the international community and elected officials regarding the situation of the Copts and how to help put Egypt on the right track;
2- Work in close alliance and coordination with genuine democratic, liberal and secular civil society forces in Egypt in order to save the country from the negative consequences of falling under the control of a regime based on totalitarian religious ideologies;
3- The separation of religion and state in Egypt’s future constitution is a fundamental issue. For historical, factual and legal reasons, Copts (with their allies’ help) must reject the current “Article 2” or variations on it. If imposed later-on by the majority, the constitution would lose its consensual basis;
4- Help the international community understand the strategic, long-term, negative impact of misunderstanding the nature of, or flirting with, the forces of religious fascism trying to dominate Egypt and the region;
5- Call upon the international community to tie any aid to Egypt to the country’s abiding, constitutionally and legally, by its commitment to international human rights conventions and treaties; and to designate part of the aid to compensate victims of religious hate crimes;
6- Join hands with other N.E. religious minorities and indigenous communities to form a new regional organization that upholds values of secularism and human rights in the area;
7- Actively support the passage of H.R. 440 and S. 1245 legislation which will appoint a special envoy on religious freedom for N.E. religious minorities.
July 14, 2011