By PRNewsWeb –
For Immediate Release – WASHINGTON – JANUARY 15, 2019 –
Coptic Solidarity welcomes the opening of a new cathedral in Egypt’s administrative Capital. Yet, a single church remains only symbolic, as it is not accompanied by genuine changes in the Copts’ conditions. It is not a reason to deny the ongoing persecution of Egypt’s Copts at the hands of the Egyptian government and society, or their lack of religious freedom. It does little to rectify the decades-long onerous restrictions by the Egyptian government on the repair and construction of churches. Many towns remain without a single church.
In a recent report published by The Early Warning Project, run by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Egypt was ranked the third most likely country for a genocide to occur. Aside from the severe restriction on construction and repair of churches, Copts live as second-class citizens in every other area of life, and face increasing attacks on their persons and properties, driving about 15% of Copts to emigrate from Egypt in just the last few years.
In August 2016, Egypt passed Law 80, which was touted to facilitate and streamline the church construction process. Yet, a recent study by POMED on implementation of this law, found that as of November 2018, the Egyptian government had issued only eight permits for construction of new churches, an approval rate that is lower than that under President Mubarak, and of the approximately 3,800 unlicensed churches awaiting legalization, the authorities conditionally recognized only 627 and permanently closed nine. Underscoring the current predicament of Christians in Egypt, the Mar Girgis Church in Minya was illegally closed and two priests were forced out, just two days after the opening of the new cathedral.
Coptic Solidarity challenges recent statements by US officials and the delegation that visited Egypt claiming that opening of the cathedral demonstrates the high level of religious freedom in Egypt aming other effusive praise for the Egyptian government. Such statements directly contradict the reality of increasing persecution and discrimination against Copts and all other minorities in Egypt as documented in the annual IRF report on Egypt, by the USCIRF, civil society, and the data on church construction.
Coptic Solidarity endorses efforts to combat Islamic terrorism and ensures Egypt’s security and stability. It also acknowledges Egypt’s is important role in the stability of the region. However, we have previously asserted that achieving such objectives need not be at the expense of human rights and religious freedom consistent Secretary Pompeo’s assertions. As Coptic Solidarity president, Dr. George Gurguis, stated in his testimony before Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, “The war on terrorism needs to be fought less in military battles and more within Egypt (and Saudi Arabia), against institutions such as al-Azhar, which has continued to promote the totalitarian hate ideology of Salafi and Wahabi Islamists and produce intolerance and terrorism. President Sisi’s call for reform of Islamic religious discourse……., was never translated into action.”
Promoting human rights and religious freedom is an intrinsic value of the US and an integral part of its foreign policy. Turning a blind eye to the ongoing sever discrimination and persecution perpetuated by the Egyptian government against religious minorities will only create a more unstable Egypt, perpetuate security threats, and undermine the US government’s reputation as a nation that promotes religious freedom and equality for all.
Coptic Solidarity is an organization seeking to help minorities, particularly the Copts, of Egypt and we support those in Egypt working for democracy, freedom, and the protection of the fundamental rights of all Egyptian citizens. It advocates in cooperation with the affiliated organizations in Canada and in Europe (Solidarité Copte). For more information, contact Lindsay Griffin at 801-512-1713 or firstname.lastname@example.org