By Coptic Solidarity –
This year Coptic Solidarity (CS) celebrated 10 years of advocating equal citizenship rights and full religious freedom for Egypt’s Coptic Christians and other minorities in the Middle East. In the past 10 years, we have brought numerous legislators, high profile government officials and advocates to our events to join our efforts and advocate with us. We’ve also represented Copts at the highest levels worldwide including at the UN, EU, and with the individual governments of the US, UK, France, and Canada.
We are the forefront of the civil liberties battle to ensure all Egyptians can live with dignity and equality. Our work is achieved through advocacy and awareness work in diaspora communities. We are an independent non-governmental human rights organization. We do not operate programs in Egypt, and therefore maintain complete independence from the Egyptian government, not susceptible to their pressure. We also operate completely independent of the Coptic, Catholic, and Protestant churches in Egypt who are all under incredible pressure to portray the reality for religious minorities much more positively than it is.
- Campaign in Support of H. RES. 49 – Supporting Coptic Christians in Egypt
CS assisted in drafting H. RES.49, which Rep. French Hill (R-AR) introduced in January 2019. Coptic Solidarity launched an online grassroots campaign in support of the resolution and worked to gather Congressional cosponsors. With 67 cosponsors, the resolution is well-positioned to be passed in this session of Congress.
- Campaign for Coptic Footballers – CS followed up with FIFA after submitting a report titled, Discrimination Against Copts in Egyptian Sport Clubs, on their online complaints mechanism, delineating the rampant discrimination against Coptic footballers at all levels of football within Egypt. Following a discussion with FIFA’s department for preventing discrimination and promoting diversity, CS launched an online grassroots campaign enabling supporters to send messages directly to FIFA officials, urging them to investigate discrimination against Coptic footballers. We also launched an online campaign whereby supporters can send messages directly to members of the Normalization Committee which is currently overseeing the Egyptian Football Association. Additionally, CS submitted our report to the International Olympic Committee to inform of discrimination against Coptic athletes prior to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
- Advocacy Meetings – Coptic Solidarity conducts quiet diplomacy meetings regularly with the State Department, US Commission on International Religious Freedom, maintains relationships with Congressional offices and is continually cultivating new Representatives and Senators to support Coptic equality. In October, CS met with top White House staff who coordinate President Trump and VP Pence’s efforts on international religious freedom. This was an important opportunity to share CS’s perspective and counter false narratives. CS president, Ms. Caroline Doss, Esq. also represented CS at President Trump’s event at the UN General Assembly entitled Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom, making him the first sitting US President ever to host a global event on religious freedom.
- Conferences – CS participated in the 2nd Annual Ministerial to Promote Religious Freedom, hosted by the US State Department in July, which is a critical time of learning, exchanging information, and networking with key players in our field. CS will also be representing Coptic issues at the 2nd International Conference on Christian Persecution hosted in Budapest by the Hungarian government in November 2019.
- CS hosted its 10thAnniversary Conference on June 20-21, 2019 in Washington, DC. The theme, Egypt’s Copts: Prospects of Equality in a Radicalized Society, focused on recommendations to help Copts achieve equal citizenship rights and religious freedom in Egypt, as well as protection from violence and discrimination. This year’s conference featured 38 speakers including gala dinner keynote speaker, Pastor Andrew Brunson and Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback and Mariam Ibraheem, former prisoner of conscience from Sudan. Other speakers included government officials, Congressmen, policy experts, and members of civil society organizations of various ethnic and religious backgrounds who represent a wide array of the political spectrum. Our conference is the premiere annual event that promotes awareness of the situation of the Copts and brings together top experts on Egypt and Coptic issues to help guide our strategy. It also enables CS to strengthen existing relationships and develop new ones to achieve our mission. Videos of key sessions and speeches are all available on Coptic Solidarity’s You Tube channel.
- CS hosted its 4th Annual Modern Coptic Martyrs Remembrance Day on October 22, featuring the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, as the keynote speaker. The event was cosponsored by six partner NGOs including: Freedom House, International Christian Concern, Jubilee Campaign, MEMRI, Tahir Alnisa Foundation, and 21Wilberforce. This event serves as a remembrance of the numerous modern Coptic martyrs, creates awareness of the Coptic situation in Egpyt, and advocates justice for them and their communities.
- Report – CS published an important report titled A Glimpse in to the Mindset of Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, The Grand Imam of al-Azhar, researched and written by Executive Committee member, Mr. Magdi Khalil, which exposes the contradictory messages on religious freedom that Sheikh al-Tayeb expresses to the West, versus what he says to Muslim majority audiences in Egypt and the Middle East. This is a critical initiative as many Western officials have a mistaken understanding of al-Tayeb’s true beliefs and actual efforts to suppress religious freedom and equality for religious minorities.
- Publications – CS continued to publish op-eds, commentaries, position statements, and press releases which is an important component in countering the Egyptian government and controlled media narrative regarding the Coptic situation and human rights in Egypt. We publish annual analyses of both the State Department and USCIRF’s reports on the state of religious freedom in Egypt with Annual State Department Report Confrims Systematic Discrimination Against Religious Minorities in Egypt being one of our most popular resources in 2019 .We additionally translate important pieces to Arabic which is a valuable resource for our Arabic language supporters worldwide and first-generation immigrants.
CS’s accomplishments challenge the Egyptian government’s narrative and well-funded public relations campaign absolving themselves from responsibility for the increasingly dangerous and hostile environment towards Copts in Egypt. We aim to expose the Egyptian government’s denial and help government officials, US legislators, and policy experts understand that the majority of discrimination and persecution of Copts is coming from the Egyptian government and society, not from foreign terrorists. The other important counter-narrative is one the Egyptian government has successfully publicized through both Egyptian and American Evangelicals which emphasizes some minor cosmetic rhetoric and actions to promote religious freedom, that have little to no benefit to the majority of Christians in Egypt and have done nothing to improve the status of Copts. Lastly, the Egyptian government has successfully influenced some Coptic and US-based NGOs to support their narrative. These NGOs serve to muddle the picture of reality for Copts in Egypt. For this reasons, our complete independence is paramount to be an effective advocate for Coptic equality.
Without CS’s efforts, the Egyptian government narrative would have prevailed with most believing that the situation of Copts has improved under el-Sisi, when the opposite is true. Due to our efforts, many legislators, governments, the USCIRF, and policy experts have been made aware of the true situation of Copts in Egypt. We also remind the Egyptian government that the US and international community are aware of its discriminatory policies against the Copts and are demanding equal citizenship.