Written by Mohamed Abdel Salam
4 March 2010
CAIRO: American right-wing activist Nina Shea, a member of the US Committee for Religious Freedoms, accused the Egyptian government of “burying” the Coptic heritage of Egypt. She said the Cairo government supports the promotion of hatred against Copts in the Egyptian media and called on the US government to use American aid to Egypt in the support of the Coptic Christians of the country.
Shea criticized, in an interview with the American Christian Acton Institute, what she described as “the Egyptian government’s rejection of teaching the original Coptic Language in public schools … as it allows the study of English, French or German, but not Coptic.”
She also accused the Egyptian government of “burying the history and culture of the Copts in schools and the incitement of hatred against Christians in the media and mosques.”
She cited a speech made by Egyptian Bishop Thomas, the bishop of Qusiya, at the Hudson Institute two years ago. She said that Thomas spoke of “the continuing of the project of Arabization and Islamization of Egypt, which was not originally Arab or Islamic … before the Arab invasion, everyone was Copt in Egypt.”
The the US activist, director of the Center for Religious Freedom of the American right-wing Hudson Institute, criticized the American Administration for not exploiting the aid to Egypt in order to solve the Coptic problem.
She said that the United States provides annual aid to Egypt of about $2 billion “and we don’t influence through it at all to help Christians, and our ambassadors there are not effective in helping them.”
Shea said that “Copts are facing a huge problem in light of the rise of political Islam, a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam has been revived, which seeks the application through the state.”
Shea, who is also a member of the Inter-American Commission on International Religious Freedom, said that the Copts in Egypt “are not allowed to build or even renovate churches.”
She added: “Egypt has the largest Christian minority, but in fact the largest non-Muslim minority, among all countries in the Middle East, and that is the fate of the Coptic Church is very important for the experience of religious pluralism as well as for a Christian.”
Shea said that the number of Coptic Christians in Egypt amounts to 10 million people, in contrast to the Pew Center estimates that put them at less than 5 million people.
Shea said: “There are no Christian citizens in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia does not allow the construction of churches at all … and the Christians disappear quickly from Iraq, Turkey and Iran, and thus Egypt is very important.”
Shea, is known for her stricter religious views, as she was behind a conference held in January 1996 that brought more than 100 Christian leaders, churches and Christian clergy to discuss the situation of Christianity in the world under the auspices of Freedom House.