Coptic Solidarity 8th Annual Conference – Report
Washington, D.C., June 15-16, 2017
Egypt: Combating Terrorism without Sacrificing Civil Rights
Coptic Solidarity hosted its 8th Annual Conference on June 15 – 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. The theme, Egypt: Combating Terrorism without Sacrificing Civil Rights, was particularly timely with the recent approval of a new NGO law in Egypt that further expands the already draconian crackdown on civil society in Egypt.
This year’s conference featured nine Members of U.S. Congress (MoCs) speaking and messages from Senator M. Rubio (R –FL), from Canadian MP Dr. K. Leitch, and from Mr. Jan Figel Special Envoy of the European Commission for Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief Outside the EU. In addition, thirty guest speakers joined, representing a wide array of the political spectrum and civil society organizations, which resulted in a robust dialogue and policy recommendations.
I. Policy Day – Capitol Hill
CS President’s Introductory Remarks
Coptic Solidarity President, Dr. George Gurguis, opened the event providing a broad analysis and historical context of the present situation in Egypt. He demonstrated how the origin and evolution of the fundamentalist Islamist culture in Egypt started under Sadat and how allowing the Wahabist ideology to take root in Egypt has resulted in a decline of Egyptian culture and the dramatic rise of Islamic fanaticism, bigotry and violence against the Copts. President el- Sisi’s scorched earth policy against civil society institutions and the simultaneous skyrocketing in number of attacks on Copts are unprecedented in Egypt’s modern history as a republic dating back to 1952. The Egyptian government’s seemingly positive rhetoric towards the Copts was contrasted with the reality on the ground. Dr. Gurguis called for a more sober formulation of US policy towards Egypt, one that makes military and financial aid conditional on achieving genuine progress in human rights, civil society, religious freedom for all, and equal civil rights for the Copts, among other conditions necessary for defeating fundamentalist, Islamist ideologies.
Session: Nexus of Terrorism and Human Rights
Panelists: Mr. Raymond Ibrahim, Dr. Daniel Pipes, Ryan Mauro
Panelists underscored the dire situation of Copts in Egypt, and the concerted effort to rid Egypt of its Copts, which mounts to ethnic cleansing, and to enforce an inferior Dhimmi second-class status on Copts. The role of el-Azhar was noted in creating and perpetuating the present Islamist culture of extremism. Panelists agreed reform of school curricula is needed. There was debate regarding how much President el-Sisi can do to facilitate Islamic religious reform to change the present fanatic culture or better protect the Copts given the institutionalized discrimination against them. Panelists debated how sincere el-Sisi is in his intentions to implement real changes and whether he is capable of matching his words with actions. For conditions of the Copts to change, two conditions need to coalesce; moderate Muslims must work to change attitudes towards Copts, and the Church both locally and internationally has to be more assertive. The discussion also underscored the belief that only Muslims can make the necessary reformations within Islam to build respect and equality for members of minority faiths in Egypt. Finally, some panelists were not sure if imposing pressure on Egypt to make reforms would effect lasting changes, but thought that imposing sanctions on states, institutions, or entities sponsoring Islamic fundamentalist ideologies might be a more fruitful strategy.
Jàn Figel, European Commission Special Envoy for Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief Outside the EU
Due to health issues, Mr. Figel had to cancel his travel and addressed the conference via a recorded video message. He discussed the ways in which his newly formed office is working to protect religious minorities, including Copts, and addressing issues such as blasphemy laws, and legislation that takes away their human rights.
Session: Middle East religious minorities: Hostages to terrorists and regimes.
Panelists: Knox Thames, Sandra Jolley, Dwight Bashir
Representatives from the U.S. Department of State and USCIRF highlighted President Trump’s recent call on the international community to stand “against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews and the slaughter of Christians,” and VP Pence’s statement that “protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of this administration which is fully committed in bringing relief and comfort not only across the Middle East but across the world.” The U.S. Administration is focused on religious freedom because “its presence is one of the essential conditions for permanent peace, stability, and security.” Combating religious extremism should be conducted through safeguarding legitimate religious expression. The situation in Egypt was particularly alarming in view of the rapidly and violently increased targeting of Coptic Christians, and that 90 Christians have been killed in Egypt since May this year, compared to 37 in 2016. The State Department urged bringing perpetrators of communally based sectarian violence to justice and abolishing reconciliation sessions as necessary conditions for Copts to feel safe and secure in their own country; and the implementation of the new church law which would send a message that Copts should be treated as equal citizens. “Denigration of religion” laws were cited for their “ chilling societal effect on individual freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion.” Human rights conditions in Egypt were described as “deplorable.”
The role of USCIRF within the context of religious freedom violations worldwide was discussed. Copts were lauded for their “rich history, theological and cultural underpinnings of the Coptic tradition, and belief which has produced amazing people of great intellect, great faith, and great commitments to their community.” The Coptic community in Egypt has shown “grace under fire,” and a “resilient spirit pressed beyond the great key point without breaking,” setting a “model for the world.”
Finally, the introduction of “entities of Particular Concern” to the IRF law was highlighted, which would have included the ISIS franchise in Egypt and their role in the persecution of Copts in Egypt had it not been for the “territorial” requirement.The rationale for removing Egypt from the recommended Countries of Particular Concern list was based on the annual nature of the report, since the more recent attacks on Copts occurred after the publication of the latest report. This decision can be changed next year. Symbolic gestures by President el-Sisi, visits to the Coptic cathedral, completing the repair of churches destroyed in Aug. 2013, and the new church construction and repair law were strongly welcomed and seen as significant improvements. However, it remains to be seen how the new church construction law will be implemented. Other issues namely; blasphemy laws, civil society institutions, requiring religion on ID cards, and public shaming continue to be of concern. In conclusion, Egypt has much room for improvement.
Session: Combating indigenous culture of violence and impunity
Panelists: Alberto Fernandez, Sarah Yerkes, Nina Shea
Panelists identified three levels of violence, and their application in the case of Egypt. The first, inflicted by governments in the form of injustice, mis-governance, corruption and human rights abuses; the second, the minorities’ lack of civil rights, and the normalized or daily discrimination and violence inflicted by the majority against minorities, “those who have power over the week”; and thirdly, the violence inflicted on “the other” by organized, well-funded Islamists to defame and kill non-Muslims. The escalation of religiously motivated violence was underscored and the need to bring perpetrators of religiously motivated crimes to justice was emphasized together with the need to abolish the so-called “reconciliation sessions.” Panelists noted the abuse of “state of emergency” measures to crackdown on political opposition and perpetrate human rights abuses. President el-Sisi’s rhetoric was labeled a form of impunity as it is not sincere and not backed with teeth to make it meaningful. El- Sisi has failed to acknowledge the real level of violence against Christians in Egypt, and his unity mantra has detracted from the increasingly dangerous threat which Copts are facing. The Egyptian government is not prepared to fight terrorist elements and the economy is in decline. The crack down on civil society institutions and the new NGO law are reasons to question el-Sis’s rhetoric. It was recommended that members of Congress should raise these issues in their visits to Egypt.
Panelists noted that ISIS is drawing battle lines in Egypt on the Copts. If Copts are forced to flee, and if ISIS is permitted to pursue their genocidal goals, the Middle East will be dramatically transformed to the detriment of the US and the West’s interest. Copts are now seen to stand in the way of a Sharia state, and ISIS in Egypt is a franchise led by local extremists who aim to paint the Copts as traitors silently colluding with the enemy. Churches are particularly targeted as a means to eradicate the entire Coptic presence. The fate of the Copts is now the primary measure of effectiveness for President Sisi’s policies despite his call for a religious revolution.
During the discussion, panelists unanimously concluded that increased and persistent advocacy by Coptic Solidarity and other like-minded minority advocacy groups is the key to improving the situation for Copts. They also highlighted the need for Members of Congress to visit Church leaders and sites on their many visits to Egypt, and for President Trump to constantly reiterate the importance of human rights and religious freedom in his communications with President El-Sisi.
Session: Recommendations to the US government to improve human rights in Egypt
Panelists: Michael Wahid Hanna, Robert P. George, Eric Trager
George described how fundamentalist Islamist ideologies are similar to totalitarian movements such as Nazism and communism. The situation in Egypt regarding Islamic terrorists is “a struggle that pits lawlessness and tyranny, totalitarianism itself, against freedom and dignity.” “Copts are always in the line of fire” as they are viewed as competition in this battle for the hearts and minds of the populace, and they are also advocates of democracy and human rights. Christians and other religious minorities are a roadblock to cleansing the Middle East of its minorities and a dangerous obstacle to radical dreams, as many Christians are advocates for religious freedom. Violent extremists in Egypt seek to destroy religious minorities. The government’s policies have both directly and indirectly harmed religious minorities and emboldened extremists by their repeated failure to bring perpetrators of violence to justice. The only way for the Egyptian administration to defeat this ideology is to remove laws and policies that crush peaceful dissent, restrict freedom of religion, belief, and conscience, and to bring perpetrators to justice. Blasphemy prosecutions are applied disproportionately to Christians and other non-Muslims which have resulted in marginalizing these communities, encouraging intolerance against them, and suppressing more moderate, pro-reform, pro-democratic forces. It was noted that el-Sisi has not departed from Mubarak’s long-standing ways of crushing dissent, as he has not changed the laws to encourage freedom of religion and has not brought perpetrators of violence to justice. Egypt’s government must redouble its efforts to do that, and abandon the notion that the answer to extremism is repression. Civil liberty, equal justice under the law, and dissuading people from becoming religious extremists are sustainable solutions.
The absence of the Coptic community from most policy discussions that impact them in Washington, D.C. was noted. Coptic Solidarity and other Copts should increase their advocacy activities. There is a need to build advocacy leadership among second generation Copts who should be more engaged in Washington, D.C.“
Repression cannot achieve equality and pluralism”, and Copts should partner with liberals against crackdowns, even when those attacked are their political enemies such as in the case of the Rabaa massacre. More nuance and accuracy are required in the approach to designating terrorist groups.
The panel was followed by a lively discussion, which focused on the importance of accuracy and nuance in representing Coptic issues.
Special Guest Speaker
Behey el-Din Hassan: The Copts and Egypt at a Historical Critical Juncture
Mr. Hassan gave an excellent presentation on the current dire situation of Copts in Egypt. He highlighted that the Maspero massacre was a brutal message intended to push Copts away from uniting Egyptians in their common struggle for democracy, and that under Sisi’s tenure, Copts were officially and legally, through the new church construction law, recognized as a “sect” and not equal citizens. Copts have three choices: 1) Continue the existing course and become virtually extinct in Egypt as the Jews have. 2) Seek protection from the international community, although the result has not been successful in Iraq or Syria. 3) Embed themselves into the Democratic Liberal Movement in Egypt to seek equality, justice, and the protection for all Egyptians. Mr. Hassan argued that only through the third option would Copts find long-term safety, security, and equality in Egypt.
Remarks by Members of the U.S. Congress
Some major points of continuity reiterated by nearly every Member of Congress (MoC) who spoke at the conference included the importance of hosting our annual Policy Day which is an important reminder and call to action for U.S. legislators, a call for Coptic Solidarity to continue advocacy because it makes a difference even when the results are not immediately visible, and reassurances of their continued support for protection of Copts and a desire to see them achieve equality in Egypt. MoCs noted some positive efforts made by El-Sisi, but called for further concrete actions. The new NGO law and unprecedented crackdown on civil society was universally condemned.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
Expressed his concerns that President el-Sisi is “presiding over a widespread crackdown on fundamental human rights that is closing off all space for peaceful dissent.” He quoted a Pope Francis statement to President El-Sisi saying “History does not forgive those who preach justice, but then practice injustice,” and his discussion with el-Alzhar’s Grand Imam about the role of education “to counter effectively the barbarity of those who foment hatred and violence.”
Rep. French Hill (R – AR)
“Attacks on Copts outside Cairo and the countryside are still, I think, an immense challenge to Egypt, and those victims rarely are seeing any form of justice. So, I would hope that President el-Sisi would make an example of security for Egyptian Christians by ending this culture of impunity and persecution.”
“I appreciate your advocacy on Capitol Hill for the plight of our Christian brothers and sister in Egypt. Know that we stand with you in Congress for religious tolerance, religious freedom, and all across the Levant and in Egypt, we want the diversity of religion that has made the Middle East the healthy, economically successful, and beautiful place it’s been for millennia.”
“The best thing we can all do in the US and our business community is engage with Egypt for its strategic location and economic benefits to help grow that economy, offer future career opportunities to Egyptians, and a growing better Egyptian economy is better for Christians in Egypt and better for Muslims in Egypt.”
Rep. Dave Trott (R- MI)
“…attacks specifically are aimed at the Coptic Christians. Terrorist groups have made a point and specifically mentioned the Coptic Christians in their recruitment videos, and they are wreaking havoc on Egypt’s Christian population. Egypt is facing illegitimate insurgency from terrorists that Copts have been subject to disproportionate amount of violence. That is a fact.”
“Since Copts are facing a disproportionate amount of violence, they should also be part of the solution…The Egyptians could show the terrorist that they mean what they say by placing more Copts in high level security positions in intelligence, military and local security forces as Copts are almost currently non-existent in these positions.”
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
“If we lose completely the concept of pluralism, that people, that religious minorities can possibly coexist side by side other faith traditions and be integrated in the governance structure, be protected with the right to religious freedom,…if we cannot, if Egypt collapses, if the prospect for pluralism in the name of justice, respect for individual dignity and the rights of conscience as it finds expression and religious freedom dies, then people will just default back to tribal, ethnic religious allegiance and there is no prospect for healthy governance and mutual respect. That is why I believe what you are doing is absolutely so critical.”
Sen. James Lankford
“I got to tell you about some of the work that is already going on [in] international trade…some of the things we were able to put in the Trade Promotion Authority Bill to require religious liberty to be addressed every time we do any kind of economic engagement with another country. There is an ongoing work for …just basic dignity and protection of all individuals to be able to practice their faith.”
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)
“I was the chief Democrat on the Coptic Church accountability act that we introduced. Since then I’m told that there’s been a substantial improvement on the issue of building churches, but if that progress does not continue, we will use the vehicle of introducing legislation in the United States Congress to raise our voices and make it clear to Cairo that churches need to be allowed to be built. But it is not enough to allow churches to be built. They have to be protected. That is the number one function of every government. That is the duty that a government owes to its citizens.”
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
“Egypt is particularly alarming because of the staggering growth of attacks, particularly the past two years. I’m troubled that we continue to see regular instances of violence against Coptic homes, business and places of worship. Vigilante violence has taken the lives and livelihoods of innocent men and women and children throughout Egypt and far too often with impunity. That is why this conference and organizations like Coptic Solidarity are vital to our efforts to raise awareness and shine light on the plight and suffering. Many Coptic Christians are under constant threat and live in fear of being attacked. We are not going to rest until you’re treated as first class citizens.”
Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL)
“It is worth coming together, fighting again for protecting all of these incredible communities of faith, and the Coptic communities…making sure they are recognized, that Egypt takes the steps that need to happen there of recognizing and protecting, and we as Congress do our part standing alongside with you. …if you don’t have freedom to pursue your own faith, you really have no freedom at all. And so, that is our commitment to you, my commitment is we will continue to fight for our Coptic friends in Egypt.”
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)
“I authored another religious freedom law…The Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016…will give a voice and tangible contact with our policy because it is a whole government approach, to ensure that from the National Security Council, the NSC, to every other aspect of our government, religious freedom will be front and center…to integrate it into our foreign policy.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
“The Egyptian government must make progress on human rights, religious freedom, democracy, and economic reforms. Recent terrorist attacks—such as the horrific shooting of Coptic Christians on a bus in central Egypt in May and the Palm Sunday suicide attacks against peaceful worshipers in April—are grim reminders of the growing threats that this ancient faith community, which dates back to the Apostle Mark, is facing today. As Christians and other religious minorities are being targeted with discrimination, persecution and even murder throughout the Middle East, confronting these threats should be at the forefront of our foreign policy.”
MP Dr. Kellie Leitch – Member of the Parliament of Canada
“Coptic Solidarity plays a critical role protecting the rights of Copts in Egypt and Christians and other minorities across the Middle East. Your work has helped shed light on the persecution that Copts and others are facing in practicing their beliefs in their ancient homeland. Your dedication to the cause of equality and human rights is honorable and just. The ten million Copts in Egypt and other minorities across the Middle East are stronger because of your leadership and the tireless efforts of the Coptic Solidarity team.
II. Day Two Key Bridge Marriott Hotel
Session: Freedom and the Islamization of the Public Space
Panelists: Frank Gaffney, William Weessa
Panelists discussed the Islamization of the public space and its effects on the Egyptian society in general and on minorities including the Copts. Social or public space and time, is one where all citizens feel equal and express themselves freely. It plays an essential role in the emergence of individual rights and civil society. Islamization of the public space which started after the 1952 military coup, escalated precipitously when Sadat pushed through a constitutional amendment declaring Sharia the main source of legislation, released members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and formed The Islamic Group (Gamaa Islamia).
Islamization of the public space continued with Mubarak to thoroughly pervade the Egyptian society. This is reflected in the media, both state-owned and private, where Islamic topics constitute the major themes, names of geographic landmarks long known for their Pharaonic, Coptic, or European origin or names in Egypt’s history were systematically changed to Islamic names. Targeted actions included replacing historic names with Saudi Arabian names and preventing churches from publicly displaying the cross or other Christian features. Significant changes were instituted regarding acceptable public dress over the past four decades. Now, not only do most women wear the hijab, but some wear the niqab. Simultaneously, Christian women have been harassed for wearing a cross. The public space was also invaded through broadcasting Islamic religious worship and material on loud speakers. Common everyday language changed, and artists were co-opted to don the hijab. The result is reinforcing fanaticism, silencing moderate Muslims, and psychological alienation and social marginalization of Copts and other minorities.
Session: Future of Civil Society in Egypt
Panelists: Scott Mastic, Stephen McInerney, Elly Page
All Panelists described the detrimental impact of the new NGO law passed by the parliament and recently signed into law by President El-Sisi. Ms. Elly Page provided her detailed legal analysis and critique of the new law. The written version can be viewed here.
Update from Middle East Christian Representatives
Mr. Tom Harb – Secretary General, MECHRIC
Mr. Medlum Merogi – Canadian Representative, Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular
MECHRIC’s representatives addressed the increasingly perilous situation for Christians and other minorities in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. Merogi talked about the ferocious ISIS attacks on Chaldean Christians, their persons, property and the particular hatred that has been expressed in the destruction of churches and religious objects. He showed the audience a Bible, which ISIS militants had tried to rip apart. Upon failing, they chose to shoot a bullet directly through the cross on the cover. This visual aid did much to personalize the trauma and severity of attacks against Christians in the Middle East.
Coptic Solidarity Activity Review
Mrs. Lindsay Griffin, Director of Advocacy and Development, Coptic Solidarity
Mrs. Griffin provided an update of Coptic Solidarity’s key achievements over the previous year. Activities included press and social media work, advocacy campaigns, and increased outreach to government officials and Congressional offices. She made special mention of the Egyptian government’s increased effort to hamper Coptic Solidarity’s work which seems to indicate that the organization’s advocacy and awareness efforts are creating more pressure on the Egyptian government to protect and treat Copts equally.
Mr. Bahey el-Din Hassan, General Director, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Mr. Hassan noted that after the 2011 uprising, Egypt had three choices; revert to Mubarak’s path, pursue the Islamist path, or choose the liberal democratic path. The democratic path blossomed in the early twentieth, was destroyed by the 1952 coup, and was reborn in the 1990’s. The liberal democratic path was viewed as a strategic threat to both the military establishment and Muslim Brotherhood (MB) who shared political religious conservatism and viewed secularism as a foreign concept. The alliance between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood was only tactical. Once the military completed its crackdown on the MB, it turned its attention to civil society institutions using security, legal, judicial, street violence, and targeted assassinations to hamper their work.
They declared the April 6th movement, youth organizations, political groups, and NGOs to be foreign agents. Once elected, el-Sisi “resumed and escalated the attack he had supervised as Director of Military Intelligence in 2011 against human rights NGOs.” The crack- down continued under the guise of the “fight against terrorism.” The draconian NGO law allows the designation of human rights NGOs as terrorist entities. Attacks on NGOs have included freezing assets, shutting down NGOs, issuing travel bans, and initiating harassment by security forces. The only step remaining for the regime to complete its death threats would be to start issuing life sentences to human rights defenders.
Session: Copts’ Struggle for Equal Civil Rights in Absence of Political Representation
Panelists: Adel Guindy, Essam Eskander, Ebram Maqar
Copts actively participated and had decent representation in political parties during Egypt’s experiment with democracy in the first half of the twentieth century. Some Copts held posts of minister and prime minister. The church relied on the support of prominent Copts in managing its affairs when it came to interacting with the state. Government policies after the 1952 military coup had detrimental effects on Copts, robbing them of their wealth, social standing and political participation. As a result, the Church by default came to be the sole institution representing the Copts and was forced to interact directly with the government. The clergy were not experienced politicians, were unequipped to defend the political rights of their flocks, and subjected to political manipulations and threats. As Copts owe spiritual obedience to church leadership, the government found it easy to manipulate the entire Coptic population through exerting pressure on their church hierarchy.
Copts are subjected to various kinds of oppression, persecution, and discrimination. The most common form of violence is “Nobody’s Violence,” in which perpetrators are virtually impossible to pinpoint, and responsibility is diffused.
The government has used sectarian unity as a ploy and threat to pressure Church leadership to tow its line. This pressure explains why leaders of the Coptic Orthodox and Evangelical churches in Egypt recently sent letters to Members of the U.S. Congress claiming that the Coptic minority is doing better under el- Sisi’s rule, despite accelerating attacks against Christians.
The panel was followed by a lively discussion, particularly regarding these letters which claim the Copts’ situation under Mr. Sisi is good.
Session: At the Roots of Islamist Terrorism (Panel conducted in Arabic language)
Panelists: Magdi Khalil, Eyad Gamal el-Deen, Saied Shoeib
The ultimate goal of political Islam, militant or non-militant, is to establish an Islamic State or empire and to apply sharia. Islamists aim to replicate their empire from 1400 years ago. Groups such as Wahabis in Saudi Arabia, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Bashir’s regime in Sudan, and Erdogan’s in Turkey may introduce some changes, but they aspire to recreate an Islamic state or empire. “Advocates of such an ideology are not crazy or extremists, but are faithful and sincere. They practice the Quran, the Hadith, and teachings from the prophet’s life.” Islam has two sides; the first supports universal humanist values, while the other is political or militant, and morphed from being only a religion to being a religion and a political identity that adopted an expansionist, imperialist nature that has swept the world by force. The Muslim Caliph is a religious and political ruler. Many Islamists use Quranic verses that call for forgiveness as a mask that hides their true ideology that stems from the second side of Islam. The origins of terrorism should not be blamed on Wahhabism or the Brotherhood, as they are expressions of political Islam. Some have made efforts to assist Muslim’s in reforming their interpretation of Islam so they can reject militant ideology while simultaneously remaining faithful believers.It was argued that equal rights, regardless of faith, are needed in civil society. Yet, in the case of Egypt, minorities need special measures of protection under the law as merely saying or granting civil rights is not enough to achieve equality. This is particularly true in an environment of religious extremism in which hate speech needs to be outlawed and religious reform and revision of educational curricular are necessary to counter the culture of hate and violence against non-Muslim minorities.
Dinner Keynote Speaker
Ambassador John Bolton
Ambassador Bolton made an excellent presentation explaining that the treatment of Copts is a bellwether for the fate of Christians and other religious minorities throughout the region. One critical point he made was about a John Stuart Mill quote on democracy, “The people must be ready to receive it.” He highlighted that freedom of consciences is a prerequisite for democracy. In this way, he explained that holding rushed elections does not bring about true democracy and can be utilized by those best organized such as occurred when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt.
Mr. Bolton also explained the U.S. view that when religious freedom is being suppressed, “we can virtually guarantee that there won’t be political freedom in any meaningful sense.” So, we need to continue the struggle for Coptic equality and religious freedom because it represents the opportunity for human flourishing for all Egyptians, not just Copts.
Mr. Bolton ended by commending Coptic Solidarity for all the hard work done to advocate on behalf of the Copts, and for organizing the annual conference. He noted that hard work and perseverance are necessary to achieve equal civil rights and religious freedom for the Copts, and said “I’m honored to be part of your struggle,” telling the audience they are obligated to use their freedom in the U.S. to work for the freedom of those in their ancestral homelands.