US Capitol, Washington DC – June 11, 2015– Members of Congress, Ambassadors, Leaders from Canada and the UK, and Academic Leaders gathered at the U.S. Capitol for the 6th Annual Coptic Solidarity Conference to discuss the rising persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East. This past February, ISIS captured and martyred 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. Coptic Solidarity, host of the event, works to help Copts in Egypt achieve equal human rights.
Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein said that the worldview of ISIS in the Middle East is “fundamentally opposed to freedom. Countering this religious oppression is my top priority.” He went on to say that the “promotion of religious freedom is indispensable to improving security and conflict resolution throughout the world.”
A common theme throughout the day was the importance of religious freedom as a critical building block to the development of democracy. Both Republican and Democratic Members of Congress affirmed the importance of religious liberty in securing human rights.
New ideas explored included a recent amendment by Senator James Lankford (R-OK) to include religious freedom as a component of trade negotiations. The amendment passed the Senate, is before the House, and is expected to be signed by the President.
Hon. Bob Dechert, Member, House of Commons, Canada described being in Parliament during the recent Canadian terrorist attack. Rt. Hon. Baroness Elizabeth Berridge, UK House of Lords, detailed her work to improve religious freedom through an International Panel of Parliamentarians.
In the past decade, religious minorities in the Middle East have experienced extreme persecution. The theme of the conference is 100 Year Later: Middle Eastern Christians Face Another Genocide. All speakers agreed that without direct, aggressive intervention, the future of Coptic Christians is in doubt. More than simply defeating ISIS, speakers agreed that the extremist ideology driving persecution throughout the Middle East needs to be confronted.
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